The Hidden and the Divine: Female Voices in Ireland ANU 2017
This anthology compiled by A New Ulster Copyright ÂŠ 2017 All Rights Reserved.
CONTENTS Mary McGonagle Johnson Trish Bennett Lynda Tavakoli Shelley Tracey Orflaith Foyle Orla Mcalinden Seanin Hughes Cathy Donelan J.S. Watts Morna Sullivan Therese Kieran Jenny Methven Beverly M. Collins Liz Quirke Fiona Perry Frances Browner Vicki Mullan Ellie Rose McKee Eileen Sheehan Margaret Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Driscoll Chris Murray Moyra Donaldson Maeve McGarrity Amy Barry Gaynor Kane Eithne Lannon Yvonne Boyle Margaret Saine Anne McMaster Csilla Toldy Women Writers published by Lapwing Publications
MARY MCGONAGLE JOHNSON Don't forget your roots. All my ancestors lie here, I tell my grandchildren As we walk through The small churchyard. These were my mother's people, I point to a name on the headstone. He was my great grandfather. Died 1907. I tell them. I watch them make the connection. Our great, great, great, they count. Six generations, they tell each other. Further along, another headstone, My father's people I tell them. They point to the name, More great grandparents. We kneel to say a prayer. As I stop to look around This churchyard, I think of the Generations who lie here, And of those who have left To scatter all over the world Many buried in foreign lands. Now we see their descendants Come to search for their roots. And I feel lucky that I returned here And can show my grandchildren Where their ancestors lie.
Lammas Day Excitement! Lammas day. We gather in the garden, sheltered By the fuchsia hedge. The perfect drills Of pink and white blossom awaits us. Our father with the new spade Puts his foot on its shoulder He sinks it deep into the drill, Turns over the brown earth, Lifts and shakes. Like pearls, they scatter. "A grand crop." He says As he rests on the spade. We hunker down to pick And gather buckets full. At the well we scrub them clean, Lug them home to put in black pot That hangs over the turf fire. Our father follows, spade on shoulder. We stand around the pot, watching. Then cooked, a well is formed in The centre, its filled with butter Freshly churned, yellow. It oozes out. Spoons in hand, we sit around. Then like a clash of cymbals Spoons clatter and crash As we compete to dip, taste And savour every mouthful Of the unique flavour of The first praties on Lammas day
1920: The year diphtheria struck. Here at my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grave I watch the delicate snowdrops. Their soft petals create a Comfort blanket for the children. Their names etched on this cold stone. But no snowdrops appeared that year. I picture the scene, imagine the pain Of the woman as she stands here Heart frozen in grief as the box is lowered. Dry sobs shake her body when earth Clatters on top. He was her first born. Danny, 5 years old. Date. January 20th, 1920. She has no time to mourn him. Just one day Before diphtheria has another in its grip. January 21st I read. John. 2 years old. Now, baby James, a gurgling, 8 months old Will fill her empty arms, but not for long. Before that year is over, His name appears here too. Doctors didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t give a reason When her health began to fail. No conclusions needed, This cold stone tell her tale. October 1920 I read. Mary. 28 years old. Her name passed on to me.
The Winter Of Forty-Seven. It snowed for days, froze for nights. We played in the deep silence Of fields where our footprints Left sins on that virgin blanket. Icicles hung like chandeliers From the spout where cattle drank. We blew warm breath on freezing fingers, Watched our father cut planks of wood To make a sledge. He flattened Out two bucket handles, Attached them to the runners. 'Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll make it fly', he said. He crossed his feet, made a nest for us. Then with two sticks he guided us, Over bumpy hills, Round dangerous bends. Fear and excitement thrilled us. Later we built snowmen in the fields, Watched in awe as the moon Threw a shimmering glow On the magic of the night. In bed, I listened to the silence Of the white world, Relived the magic of the day, Stored it in my memory box To share it my grandchildren.
Inishowen Here comes me from Inishowen A place of beauty, land of Owen. A mini Ireland people say. Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll see four seasons in one day In between Lough Swilly And Lough Foyle. A Peninsula In the north of Donegal An emerald jewel that juts into the sea, A special place we all agree. Artists come to paint this scene Enjoy its many of shades of green They rave about the changing light And marvel at this pretty sight. As it shimmers through the day It cast its light on Trawbreaga Bay. Rich in artefacts of old, Standing stones their stories hold, Holy wells, and secret places Priest and people hid their faces, And we as children passing by Crossed ourselves, and wondered why. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unique to Inishowen A special scent that draws you home The perfume from a fire of turf, The tangy sting of sea and surf, It wraps you in a mantle rare A welcome quite beyond compare.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mary McGonagle Johnson lives in Inishowen, Co Donegal. She lived in Manchester UK for many years, where she was a member of Manchester Irish Writers. They self published a few books of short stories, poems, and monologues, which they performed in the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Having had other work published, Mary is now retired and is in the process of trying to write a novel.
TRISH BENNETT Medb Speaks to the Shy Poet. I. In my time, the bardic kind commanded the rath of royalty. For fear of their sting, we gave them everything. They ‘liked’ me shared my scéal* Eireann’s Kardasian Medb. The monks’ day dawned and Kings were drawn to the power of the quill. The page turned and the Bardic way faded like old ink. Clerics came, they scripted my tale in “post truth”. Two thousand years on pilgrims still climb Knocknarea with a stone for my cairn believing I lie there instead of Rathcroughan — my home. II. Twenty first century banfhile**, cooking, cleaning, rearing young. You hold back your words for fear of their power and twitter as you peer into your faceless world. Grasp the quill in your hand banfhile** but feel the bard in your blood, share your words banfhile** 7
script your celtic truth let the tale prevail or sit there doing nothing and become a relic too. *ScĂŠal means story. **Banfhile means poetess.
Wisps In the half light betwixt day and night, A glimmer whispers by the fringe of my eye. Tendrils of a moment, caught between the suns last rays and the moonlit sky. In the half light they appear. goosebumps salute the past. Tense. Yet, no deceit lies in those prickly scents, mellow roses, wisps from a long dead pipe envelop the heir to their circle of life.
The Legacy of Care There’s the swish, an echo of days when nightingales in bulbous Victorian dresses rounded sharp corners in haste. Long dead. These days, people with anxious faces rush in, to sit in queues of torment on hard plastic chairs, and glare at a strapped up TV dripping daytime into night. The smell of clean masks an infinity of killing things. One man stifles a cough for fear of air-conditioned accusation while his wife thumbs a magazine of MRSA. The vending machine rattles, a snack, in the florescent drone. A child cries and all heads turn to stare as she clutches her ted and hides in her Mother’s chest. There’s the swish. The curtain opens we all look up in hope to a burnt-out nurse who looks at her chart and sighs as she calls my name.
Rituals. I stand in the corridor of power and face the congregation. The sun illuminates the island altar. Solid walls echo the sizzle of pans steaming hymns. Often, my chant…not quite gregorian, catching the custard on the cusp of a curdle. We leave soon and I will miss this chapel of a kitchen the soul of this borrowed place we never called ‘home’. Our brown boxes — taped to escape surround the naked dresser in scribbled rows. I plant my feet firmly, whisk in hand, seize a tight grip on the bowl. The final liturgy begins.
Stick A wooden varnished cane, honey coloured, roughly hewn, rubber end, swinging from side to side on a crisp spring day in a lunchtime rush of city suits. The type I’ve seen at home supporting an arthritic farmer in a grass lined lane. He’d nod his cap, ‘doctors orders, good for the cholesterol’ he’d say as he made the slow march to town for stout. This owner — a shiny lady, all silver glitter thread and black, legs stick thin beneath smart slacks. Her hair belonged to someone younger, loose waves to the shoulder a hump on her back. Sensible shoes for walking at speed, two handbags, one flowers and cloth, the other blue nothing matched. Why the stick? The sympathy vote from family and friends? Rescuing a shopped out mate with a gammy leg? Maybe she was just some old coot in comfortable shoes, fond of handbags and swinging sticks. I smiled as I looked down at my feet.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Trish Bennett grew up in County Leitrim. She moved to Northern Ireland to study and was charmed into staying by a Belfast biker. They have settled themselves into a small cabin by Lough Erne’s shore and try to keep the noise down in their bee loud glade. Trish writes poetry, short stories and memoir essays. She has been published in several magazines and anthologies and read her work on BBC Radio Ulster. She was long listed for the “Over the Edge ‘New Writer of the Year Award” in 2013 and won the Leitrim Guardian 2017 Literary Award for poetry. Find out more on 'Bennett’s Babblings.'
LYNDA TAVAKOLI All the poems have been published before as follows: Is this what I do? and KItchen Comforts - both in The Irish Times, Hennessy New Irish Writing. Moving Day - 4 by 4 Special Edition for International Women's Day Done - Live Encounters magazine They all come under the theme of 'Mother'.
Moving Day I moved my mother into our dining room her presence boxed and waiting for the final shift to a shed outside the pain of her absence stuttered my will to let her go black bags remaining empty of the detritus I could not throw away shopping lists on paper scraps repeated phone numbers written in her tiny disappearing hand all about the house â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;just in caseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;
Is this what I do? On a corridor of fresh-painted magnolia sunbeams stroke from velux windows onto freckled carpets, while a television talks too loudly to itself in someoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s room. I find you sleeping, head sagged as on a mis-hung coat hanger, hair, just brushed, still full of war-time curls, a legacy that did not pass itself to me. I say your name, see the reluctant wakening of your eyes, the disappointment you had not slept your way to heaven. You have told me this before. Today we talk of blue dresses and funerals and how you love my coat, and how you love my coat, the colour redolent of something already scudding out of view. You ask me now if this is what you do, just sit and wait, and wait and sit, the resignation in your voice the hardest thing for me to bear. For in this room, that thief of time has measured out its false remembrance in the ticking of a clock, as the past becomes the present and the present loiters somewhere in the past.
Kitchen Comforts Resistance hugs the small kitchen hiding secrets amongst gloomy cupboard space, post-war austerity brooding on strained shelves. Empty jars wheedle their glass weight into the wood, its protest stifled only by the hum of a fridge – a magic fridge procreating eggs by the dozen their longevity evidenced only by an absence of feathers. Plastic bags like artificial flower heads scrunch in hidden corners anticipating usefulness – receptacles for ashes and potato skins, swarf from box hedges, odd bits of wool waiting for the charity shop. An Easter cactus prospers on a sill heedless of the pills that leave their tell tale tips above the parched soil where she drove them in. This is the place she planned her day, where through a kitchen window the dulled reminders of her life still resonated in the ordinary – a rose she’d slipped, blushing the oil tank in summer, the remnants of a forgotten meal, animal fodder on the lawn. Nothing went to waste not even the birdsong wakening her at dawn that somehow hummed upon her lips for the remainder of the day.
Done Death bleaches into bone the smell of oldness secreting in the folds of laundered sheets. Old
Your face reflected in the greying wood of trees and origami limbs a plicature of skeleton and skin. You ask, ‘Is someone dying here?’ and to the silence add, ‘You’re good. I’ll keep you,’ the words your parting gift the love you left.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynda Tavakoli lives near Lisburn, County Down where she teaches special needs in a local primary school and facilitates a creative writing course at the Island Arts Centre. Her literary successes include short story and poetry prizes at Listowel, the Mencap short story competition and the Mail on Sunday novel competition. Lynda’s poems have been included in a variety of publications including Templar Poets’ Anthology Skein, Abridged, The Incubator Journal, Panning for Poems, Circle and Square, The Honest Ulsterman and Live Encounters magazine. She was selected as The Irish Times Hennessy poet of the month for October 2015. Lynda’s poetry and prose have been broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster and RTE Sunday Miscellany. She has written two novels Attachment and Of Broken Things and has been the recipient of both the Tyrone Guthrie and John Hewitt bursaries.
Visit Early morning doveswirl imaginationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s murmuration a full-winged promise to complete the circle lone crow serrating the impossible In Rosslyn Forest, between trees pared down like fossils, stone-rooted two red deer feed, drink me into peat-deep eyes look straight through me into truth. I dream of meeting you this evening unfolding roses sharing secrets two fine goblets, side by side plumdark wine, soft kiss-stain
On The Shore The perfect whiteness of swans an affront to the eye tired of seeking miracles You are past asking for anything Enough for you small fish rising to mouth their brief condolences
Asymmetries trees planted in a line shift on their starting blocks lean into their rooting in a room of silence straight-spined tulips in a vase incline themselves apart angel with one stunted wing still goes about its business paralleling faultlines
Spare Space Thank full ness makes space for emptiness, swells the heartâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s dark-panelled room. Pine Spare words lean deep into their roots. Forest Lightened pathway through an arc of highness. Home Door threshold one step closer
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shelley Tracey is a South African who has made her home in Lisburn, County Antrim, where she has been living for the past 25 years. Shelley is a member of the Women Aloud NI writing collective.
A New Caberet for the Dead Dog Years First of all you need sweat, so dust cumin beneath chairs then run your tongue along the edges of invitation envelopes. Keep some spit back for further derision or avant-garde whistling and resurrect old photographs of poets, artists and those others that hardly survived other regimes. Place tables at half-circle with orange lamps. Pop plastic violets into thin vases. Keep the chairs hard... all the more to keep poverty alive on the bones of backsides and keep the outside out...those dredged up ghosts with dead dog smiles hanging on their blasted-out jaws. Don't listen to them – don't listen to that poet who drinks your wine – all his words are dead now. No one walks the plank anymore, he screams at you, while in the osmosis of this night, your dress is sipping sweat from the blackened floor.
A Snail Yawned A snail yawned as my friend and I walked by. No eyes but a wide mouth, no teeth but a grin of pale green and a tubular body of brown and yellow. It did not speak but sat on a stone and I don't remember walking any further with my friend. The light came down like a mist, then dark as if the whole earth was nothing but a left over slice of silent sky. It was like standing on air and the snail turned its open mouth at me, while my friend, walking on, did not see, could not see me getting on my knees, moving close to the snail with my eyes and ears, waiting for speech and it came like a strangled, tiny scream at first then harder as if the stone itself was roaring out its life to me. All there is â&#x20AC;&#x201C; is this. The roar made my heart hurt. I looked at the snail's mouth. Its cells, my cells, knitted into slime and flesh. I stood up and I saw the cut jaw of the bog open and shining. I saw my friend walking on ahead and I followed, picking up destroyed flowers in his wake. Purples and blues with their stems shattered as if he had taken his teeth to them.
Poet Junkie On a bus careering around the Cathedral, a man sucking chocolate saw my book. A poet junkie, he said. I glanced at the words on the page. The half-eaten sentences, the hung rhymes, Syringes of phrases, needles of punctuation and the whole rubber tubing idea of structure. First there was June Jordan. I liked her words on breasts and crotch. On men and women, on white men and black women, on colour and the way it kills. Then Marina Tsvetayeva and the grey stare of war in her eyes. I could hear the sway of her body on its rope as her son returned with his fish. Or for Christian sorrow there was Rosetti. First the plush and sheen of her little goblin-men. Then God. Or Charles Bukowski and his blue bird tweeting against his ageing beard. His sick-rot liver and lungs; his usual fucks beneath a dirty window in a cold room overlooking a New York alley. And Akmatova, her length and beauty, starving for her words, loving Osip long before he died, and her Grey-Eyed King turned Harlequin in the end. And Sylvia standing near Emily on a foreign moor, the long cry of the wind keeping them sane until something else came instead. The bus careered on as I looked at the clouds above the hospital, the flow of humans on the streets as I imagined Keats loping from a corner, side-stepping the mess of his blood tubercular, Poet junkie, I told him and we smiled to each other.
The Boot Man 1 Attack of the Boot Man The boot on the head is easy to see. It grinds a rubber sole into my ear. The tarmac is slick like glass The boot pounds my head into brick walls. The pain gushes. The hot ease of pain, hot joy, pain grinds my teeth, my veins, and into my brain that sludges at the edges. The man with the boot and the fist has no name. He is me in the other sex. My words are in his mouth, smashing into letters smashing into powder, going down his throat like slime into his stomach and my face is printed onto the tarmac where his boot has placed me. 2 The Birth of Boot Man He was born in yellow town so called because the sun never gave up. It shone until the very edge of dark then arose hot and pulpy. The Boot Man had a father and a mother. She was a librarian and he was welder. They lived frugally. They ate normally. They barely understood spaghetti. The Boot Man began as a normal boy until one day a friend of his made him tie his pet dog onto the back of a car and made him watch the dog dragged to his death.
3 How The Boot Man Survives in My Mind He likes cigarettes. He sits in a chair and bursts fresh cherries between his fingers. He has a drawer-ful of accents and I often hear them in my head, running down vowels and filleting consonants. The Boot Man likes T.V. He likes long walks and he likes to watch people live their lives. He watches me write and he smashes me down. 4 How To Deal With Boot Man He taps at the edges of my brain. He gets in via osmosis of thought He misses his parents, he tells me. I made them up, I say. His hot stink crawls to my nose. He calls to his dead dog and it comes, like a breeze with musk of animal, like muscle covered in words, like pen on paper, and the Boot Man calls out against my words so I write them to smother his voice. 5 How To Kill The Boot Man Kiss him. Kiss me. He sits in his room, in the hot stink of his fear, like a muscled cat with half-broken claws and he spits when I come near, with my deformed head and my tarmac breath. I want him dead. So I kiss him dead Feel his suck and moan. My own sweat is his and he recedes to my own bone and I tip-toe out into the night where night birds stare down.
The Dead Mosquito You grow up when you see them old. You drop your child’s heart. They repeat the doctor’s words, and you try to shut your head to the slow sound of the end. Perhaps far off but there it is, and it cracks open a space where nothing is left. And you fill it with crisps and bottled water, with phone texts and jokes that stitch your voices together into a kind of laughter and you look for their youth, how they used to be when you were thirteen, wearing sandals and slapping red earth between your palms, damp in the afternoon heat; the crickets in the bush, the woodsmoke from the houses at the back of the compound. Your parents had different hair. Different skin and drank wine at dinner parties, and discussed the Dictator’s visit to the school Down in the garden the others were playing Tag with dead rats. ‘When we are old,’ your father joked. His face was young with beer. The mosquito fell dead to the veranda The sun began to come down. Your mother’s arm was young and warm. Tag! Tag! You’re It!
Summer And women forget they are not in Rome And so drop their breasts wide to the sea, And men with pendular guts and lax pecs lie back and think of who they havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been, Varied flesh walks ordinary streets. It jiggles, curves, lurches, stretches and pops. Skin boiled, fried, browned, blistered, skilleted between bikini strings; sweat and oiled male bellies in a sun-shine slither while young girls play the sand between their toes, and later they strip inside the sea, and the cold licks them entire, turning slow into the hairs of their flesh, reaching from some old god in the sea, the sun on their eye-lids murmuring heat, the heat in their necks, in their chin and tongue and later they kiss a real boy and run his salt between their teeth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ã&#x201C;rfhlaith Foyle is a poet and writer and not on Facebook. Her website is https://orfhlaithfoylewriter.wordpress.com and her latest collection of short stories 'Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin', was published by Arlen House in 2014. She is currently writing a novel.
Buachallain Buí – a harvest story Tug and twist. Tug and twist. Down on your hunkers. Pull the blades of coarse meadow grass away from the thick red stems of the ragwort. Grass roots pull up hard, and the task is hard enough already. A drop of sweat falls from your eyebrow into your left eye, blinding and stinging. You dash the tears from your eye, rub your sleeve across your forehead. Gather the stalks again, strong thumb of the right hand seeking the bend of the stem as it curves off and becomes root. Hands between your feet, arms between your hunkered knees. And pull and twist. And rock and rock and rock your weight gently, left and right and backwards. Left and right and backwards and the thumb in its workman’s glove following the many-fingered root down into the soil. Crunch and crunch and easing up into the daylight the snaking white root, obscene pale ghost of the sturdy red stem above. And try not to fall over at the pop and sudden release of the buachallain buí, the yellow boy, the deadly poisonous ragwort, as it gives up its grasp upon the land. Across the country the buachallain buí has been setting its hold deep, and sending out scouts to colonise new pastures. “One year’s seeding means seven years’ weeding,” your husband says, shaking his head at the lunacy of weeding the field, when the co-op sells squat tubs of herbicide and the licensed sprayer lives in the next townland. “Take out the whole of each root,” he adds, “or bear in mind that every plant that snaps off in your fist will be back to taunt you in six weeks’ time.” The deeds of the paddock are sitting on the desk in your room, beside the guide to self-sufficiency. You are still calling it the yellow-streaked field but soon you will christen it afresh, when it is clean and green, docks and thistles beaten back into the hedgerow and ragwort not tolerated even there. You turn and throw the uprooted plant onto the rising pile, carefully, so that the full extent of the root network can be seen, in case your husband will notice when next he comes to empty his bucketful of weeds upon the pile. He need not be here, but he has come — shaking his head — his forearms as thick as your calf, his shoulders massive under the collarless shirt, he will pull, in the half hour he has free, as much ragwort as you will pull in all the yawning gap of time until dinner. Gather the stalks, the strong thumb of the right hand seeking the bend of the stem as it curves off and becomes root. Hands between your feet, arms between your hunkered knees. And pull and twist. And rock and rock and rock your weight gently, and snap and fall backwards and stare at the broken stalks in your hands and the thick tap root, as big across as a main-crop carrot, still buried deep beneath the soil. And know that 32
soon the deadly leaves and stalks will have pushed back up through the grass and the root will be more wicked still. Damn and blast and hell’s curse it and blink away the stupid childish tears. The grass is mowing-high and bending with the weight of its own seed, dragging at your legs as you swim through it, from one buachallain buí to the next, and the paddock must be cleaned and the weeds carted away for burning soon. The hay must be cut and won before the days shorten too much and the dew falls too heavy on the curing grass. A foot away, another plant, eighteen inches tall and the yellow blooms already shifting to the grey of seed. One years’ seeding is seven years weeding you think to yourself. In seven years your oldest boy will be nineteen. And, one day, will he pour chemicals on the soil over which you now sweat? Time will tell. Gather the stalks again, strong thumb of the right hand seeking the bend of the stem as it curves off and becomes root. Hands between your feet, arms between your hunkered knees. And pull and twist. And rock and rock and rock…
Christmas in October “Cathy McCormack, where is your lunchbox?” Cathy looked down at her empty hands and then up, innocence radiating from her big blue eyes. Josephine McAliskey, the lunch room and playground supervisor waited for an answer. “I’ve forgotten my lunch, Mrs McAliskey,” whispered Cathy, “I’ll just sit here and do without. Mebbe one of the girls would give me a drink of water.” Please let me go to the canteen, please let me go to the canteen. Cathy’s lunch was carefully hidden at the bottom of her bed, tucked under the bedspread and buried deep in the scratchy woollen blankets, which raised a cloud of dust each Saturday when she helped her mother shake them out in the yard, before flinging them to breathe on the washing line. Cathy wanted to try a delicious hot dinner from the school canteen. It’s not bloody fair, even Sarah Brady gets to eat school dinner. Why does my family never get anything? And it was true, they never got anything. Cathy’s father earned just enough to disqualify his children from free school uniforms and free school meals. They didn’t get a bus pass, so they walked to school come rain or snow. They didn’t get a free Halloween party, paid for by the social, and St Vincent de Paul never brought them coal at Christmas, although they were cold enough to want it. It would sicken yer happiness. It’s enough to make a body quit work altogether and go on the brew, said Cathy’s mother, to see other people’s children getting everything, and the parents lying on their holes watching tv and smoking all day long. Cathy’s father would snort in disgusted agreement. Wouldn’t it just poison you? Then he would sigh and polish his work shoes to an even higher shine. Please let me go to the canteen. Just this once. “This won’t do Cathy, you can’t sit all day on an empty stomach. Why didn’t you tell Sr Brid and we could have phoned your mother?” Cathy’s mother would have searched the kitchen and hallway for the missing lunch box, to no avail. Then how would Cathy have reintroduced the lunchbox to the kitchen cupboard? It had taken months of pleading to get the lunchbox, months of trying to explain that Cathy was the only girl in the whole school who carried her lunch to school in the plastic wrapper of the Ormo sliced pan. It was bad enough having to eat the bloody sandwiches without the shame of not being able to afford a proper lunchbox. “Maybe I could go to the canteen?” Cathy didn’t think Mrs McAliskey would make her sit empty-handed in the lunchroom, and what else could be done at this short notice? Please let me go to the canteen. Maybe it was true what the other girls said, Noeleen and Sonia, that the school dinners their parents paid for were actually worse than nothing, and that the stew was bulked out with the boke of sick children in the local hospital. Let me just try it for once, and
then I’ll know. Surely to god, it couldn’t be worse than ham sandwiches? God, how Cathy hated ham! The thin, almost transparent slices, glistening with unspeakable jelly. Boke. Lorna, the kind lady behind the counter at Marley’s butcher, often set aside the tail end of each breaded ham for Cathy’s mother — the little nubs too small and fiddly to bother pushing through the slicing machine and trying to sell. Big, fat Lorna would drop the nubs into the bag along with the slices — fifteen slices every week — after she had weighed them, and wink at Cathy’s mother. Her drooping jowls would quiver as she smiled conspiratorially. On those days, Cathy wanted to die. “It’s the least she could do,” said her mother, “the amount of money I spend in there every week.” Fifteen slices of ham every week. Three rounds of Ormo ham sandwiches every day. Monday to Friday. Cathy, Liam and Mark. When things were good, the bread would have butter. When things were tight, it was Flora margarine. Couldn’t Cathy maybe, just some days, have cheese? Just for a wee change, now and again? No, ham was better for growing children. And what was wrong with the ham? Freshly sliced ham from a butcher, not out of a packet? Did Cathy think ham grew on trees? Did Cathy think her father was working himself to the bone so Cathy could turn her nose up at butcher’s ham, when children in Africa were starving to death? If Cathy thought she was too good for ham, maybe she would prefer caviar? God, how she hated — even more than the jelly — the slimy rim of lurid yellow crumb. She dreaded biting into a sandwich to find her teeth closing upon the grotesque horror of white, connective tissue gristle. Even worse were the days of Plumrose Chopped Ham: tinned, spiced, sliding glutinously out of its container with a sickening slurp. On weeks when the fifteen slices could not be stretched until Friday, when an unexpected visitor had called to the house, prompting sandwich-making and the sending of a child helter-skelter to McKeevney’s shop for Bourbon Creams, Cathy’s mother would reach into the larder and produce an emergency tin of Plumrose chopped ham. On those days Cathy’s lunch could not even be salvaged by the usual remedy of removing the hated ham and eating the bread. Plumrose Chopped Ham sullied even the innocent bread, leaking its ghastly juices deep into the white crevices. “Will I go to the canteen, so?” asked Cathy. Mrs McAliskey took a quare gunk at her, and rolled her eyes behind her big owlglasses. “Certainly not. You can’t eat a school lunch you haven’t paid for. That won’t work. The potatoes are bought and peeled depending on how many lunches are paid for on a Monday.” Suddenly the light dawned in her face. “You’ll have to go over to the Convent. Run along to the kitchen door, it’s the one beside Sr Monica’s room, and tell them you’ve no lunch.” What? You cannot be fucking serious? Eat my lunch in the nun’s kitchen? “It’s alright, Mrs McAliskey, I’m not even really that hungry.” “Nonsense,” she was all smiles now, problem solved, disaster averted, “run over to the kitchen quick, the lunch is half over and you still empty.” “I’ll be fine—” “Go now, for heaven’s sake and stop dawdling. Run!” Cathy slammed out of the lunchroom and across the yard, pausing with her hand on
the wrought-iron gate which separated the playground from the convent garden. To her left lay the nun’s graveyard, she could just duck in there for twenty minutes. She took a quick duke around, but no-one was watching her. Would anyone be any the wiser? Would oul bootface McAliskey think of double-checking? In the end she was too cowed, too institutionalised to disobey. She pushed the gate open and trailed her feet towards the pair of doors in the basement of the convent, one leading to Sr Monica’s room where the slow girls revised the cat sat on the mat and the six-times tables, one — never broached before — leading to the kitchen. “What is it, child?” asked the elderly nun who answered her knock. Cathy didn’t know the nun’s name, or recognise her face. She must be easily a hundred years old. She didn’t teach in the school, didn’t come across to demonstrate knitting, or needlework, didn’t even appear for the May procession when the statue of Our Lady was carried around the nun’s graveyard by Stephen the caretaker while the girls walked behind carrying flowers and chanting, “I’ll sing a hymn to Mary, the mother of my God, the virgin of all virgins, of David’s royal blood…” Maybe this nun was a prisoner in the basement, nameless, never seeing the sun, nor feeling the wind on her face. “Come in, come in, you wee pet,” a big smile creased the old nun’s wrinkled cheeks. “You must be starving. Sit yourself down beside the range.” Heat belted out from the big cast-iron cooker, which had several pots rattling and hopping on the hotplates. A glass of creamy cold milk appeared by magic in her hand, and Cathy took it from her and sipped gratefully. “Forgotten your lunch, daughter dear, and you working away over in school, with your stomach thinking your throat’s been cut.” The nun was opening and closing cupboards, drawing out a long, vicious looking knife. “I’ll sort you out in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. God called me to the life, and for sixty years my vocation has been to feed the hungry.” She smiled and opened the door of a huge floor to ceiling pantry. “How about a nice ham sandwich?” Fuck. Fuck. Think for fuck’s sake. “Sister, I’m actually a vegetarian.” “A what, dear?” “A vegetarian, sister. It means I don’t eat meat.” “Don’t eat meat? I’ve never heard such oul guff, your mother should be ashamed, allowing such nonsense.” Cathy thought of the fifteen slices of ham, and the fact that her mother never ate one. Never ate, nor got the chance to eat, the five slices of ham that every week Cathy crammed down the side of the lunchroom bin, or sometimes gave away to another girl, if she were discreet enough about asking. She thought about her mother hacking at the little nubs of leftover ham from Lorna, salvaging whatever could be trimmed off for her own lunch. A small tear sprang up at the side of her eye. “Ah, don’t! Don’t be crying. My bark is worse than my bite. Do you know what that means?” Cathy nodded. “Good girl. Just wait a wee minute and you’ll be as right as rain.” Jesus, two clichés in the one breath, Sr Brid would take away marks for that. Cathy nodded again and tried to smile. The nun bustled about, sawing two thick cuts off a crusty loaf and covering them with
as much butter as Cathy’s mother would have spread between the six slices of Ormo. That’s perfect, that’s enough, don’t destroy it with ham! Next, a huge platter banged down onto the table. Cathy stared it in wonder. On the platter sat, resplendent, a large pink ham, its rind blackened and sticky with a honey glaze. It’s a ham, a Christmas ham, a “Turkey and Ham” ham. But it’s October. What’s happening? The nun hacked an enormous slice off the joint and placed it between the lavishlybuttered bread slices. “Drink up your milk and eat your sandwich, daughter dear, and hurry off back to your classroom, for the sisters will be finishing their own lunch now at one o clock, and I need to clear the dining room.” Cathy bit into the bread. A taste explosion. The firm fibrous texture, the salty butter and the honey-sweetened ham melting together. The cold fresh milk. The dense, nearly black crust of the bread. For the first time Cathy realised that a slice of ham, could mean a slice of a ham. A Christmas ham. At three o clock Cathy didn’t even have time to think about the unfairness of life as the other girls with their bus passes, or their fifteen pence bus fare, were left behind by her flying feet. She was round the corner and out of sight of the bus queue within seconds. She burst through the door of her home, slamming into the kitchen. “Mammy, wait til you hear. Would you would believe it! My lunch got wet from my water bottle and I had to eat lunch in the Convent. Would you believe it — the nuns eat Christmas ham all year round.” Her mother turned from the sink, turnip in one hand, knife in the other. “I’m uneasy about them,” she snapped, “I’d like to see them feed five people on thirty pounds a week.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Orla McAlinden is a Pushcart Prize nominee, the Cecil Day Lewis emerging writer 2016, and winner of the BGEIBA Irish Short Story of the Year award. Her debut collection The Accidental Wife won the 2014 Eludia Award from Sowilo Press in Philadelphia, and was published in July 2016. The fourth story from the collection, BGEIBA winner The Visit, is freely available online. During March 2017, The Accidental Wife was the chosen text for the inaugural Armagh Big Read hosted by Libraries NI, and Orla attended library events throughout her native county of Armagh, discussing writing, and her own work, with members of writing clubs, schools, reading groups and the general public. The Accidental Wife was also chosen as the BBC Radio Ulster Nolan Show bookclub choice July 2017. She is delighted to announce her upcoming participation in the John Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Connor Writing Festival in Armagh in November 2017. Orla is working on a forthcoming novel The Flight of the Wren and a second collection Full of Grace. Her website is www.orlamcalinden.com
SEANĂ?N HUGHES Pink Is A Sister Sick with sweetness. Bright; blinds beautiful men, robs them of their enamel, but they never protest. Fat lashes fan those flushed cheeks, like blood blushing milk, bones so high and hollow beneath. Pink licks the dark, but refuses to wear it. I went panning for black diamonds in her hair in our girlhood, and found nothing but dirty pebbles and rust for treasure; I couldn't love her. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a predator with doll parts, a perfect Pinocchio gone rogue and hungry for boyprey. I've got a perverted prayer that in time, she'll dissolve into herself; melt at midday, nothing more than a discarded boiled sweet. *First published by Chris Murray at Poethead, June 2017.
Equilibrium I'm strutting stratospheric, embellished and splendid in my NHS wedding dress. My mother was here before me, her father before her, his uncle before that -- lucky, lucky me -- our platinum gilted heirloom hops generations and genders, our gene pool a puddle of madness thickened with blood and tear-streaked shrieking saliva. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m in my unsilent season, souped up and bursting, far too sexy to sedate. This is my circus and I am the airborne acrobat defying my earthly anchors until they come for me, saturnine. *First published by Chris Murray at Poethead, June 2017.
Showreel Womb wrapped/skin silk Pulse pure/warm milk Hours soft/heart drum Rose mouth/clasped thumb Loose tooth/gummy gap pillow treasure/starmapped Skinned knee/knuckle pop Tongue catching/rain drop Other body/lips lost Limbs enfold/criss crossed Foster flesh/breath songs Here going/going gone White shock/slow rest Hands locked/full blessed Last psalm/cold coil Into fire/into soil *Shortlisted for the Fifth Annual Bangor Poetry Competition 2017; as yet unpublished.
I Don't Believe In God, But I like to think that : some part of us watched from a great height this pool of mortals clustered together like lost stars, how we wander with our brittle bodies and these purple-blue balloons fist-deep in our chests, fit to burst from their delicate sac with the slow ache of feeling : some part of us arrives deliberately, our map plotted with miniature fires, unafraid of human things - not cuts or grazes, split skin or spilled milk, but our impossibility, atoms and alchemy the bliss and the exquisite pain of how we are somehow here, made mostly from water while gathering kindling.
Fireproof You don't understand. The house will definitely burn with us in it unless I neaten (evenly) the edges of sockets and doors, locked, off, locked, off and if weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re two minutes late for something, or nothing, I'm chewing my cheeks because that's two revolutions of the small hand and none of the big it's small things I collect: the openness of a body, invisible tones; the yellow velvet of sunshine between my fingers, and sentiments for safe-keeping like lucky sevens small things I prize: tiny attentions, penny sized kindnesses, punctuality, the significance of a silence and its undertow small things I fear: these words wasted, lost to the landfill I'll pick through later to find all the errors numbered, glittering, grotesque and indelible so I'll neaten the edges and openings (more than once, an even number): off, locked, off, locked, every socket and latch, every exit, just in case just in case.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Seanín Hughes is an emerging poet and writer from Cookstown, Northern Ireland, where she lives with her partner and four children. Despite writing for most of her life, Seanín only began to share her work in late 2016 after penning a number of poems for her children and since then, she has been steadily working on an ever-increasing volume of new poetry. Drawing from her varied life experiences, Seanín is attracted to challenging themes and seeks to explore issues including mental health, trauma, death and the sense of feeling at odds with oneself and the world.
See the World Inside Out
Ma used to tell you of the dying flames that fall from the sky as the cold sets in. Orange flecks lining the paths. They stuck to your boots in the rain and sound like Salthill when you ran through them. She loved it when it rained pink in the Spring, soft velvet that lands on your face with the breeze. You found cherry blossom puddles down the market where you could feel your stick run smoothly through them. The men on the stalls would curse you and your stick, knocking on their tents. They speak like the men around your Ma, always looking for something from her. You liked it down the arch, you can sit and the heat spreads over your eyelids, you can taste its brightness. You know there’s a dirty rain cloud coming when the cold takes over. The place quietens and darkens. You won’t hear children teasing around you anymore and you rush for shelter, you always find a shadow that corners the wind out of your hair. She told you, your eyes were taken at birth so you could see the world inside out. Feel its corners with your fingers, taste the seasons on your tongue, hear the earth underneath and smell the souls around you. She said you were born under the faerie tree, on the longest day of the year. Ma would love the story. You’d listen, on the edge of the crumbly kitchen counter as she cleared her throat and scraped her hands downwards, to straighten her dress. The starch cracking in the folds, her voice would rise an octave. The labour began the moment the sun rose till the fields darkened. She was walking to coax you out, said that tree was calling her to it. They didn’t believe in going to a doctor back then, robbing bastards she’d call them. She said the little people saved a breach birth but took their dues. Always a price on the soul. You waited until your twelfth birthday. Cocooned in your duvet, you counted to threehundred and fifty-four after you heard her soft steps down the hall and felt her bedroom door scrape shut. The key was left in the back door as you felt your way around, you slipped out and closed it with such silence, you could imagine not even disturbing the fat snail crawling up its glass. The grass was wet under your toes, it made your nightdress cold and soggy. You lifted your head above and could see under your eyelids the spreading of stars above, lighting to the full moon as you stood among the large roots of the faerie tree. You knocked and waited for the little hands to welcome you in.
They were silent when they came, you sensed them before you heard them and they whispered a tale in your mind. A blind woman who sacrificed a child’s eyes for her own, eyes that still let you dream through hers. They whispered in tongues you never knew existed, sharp clicks in their lisp dialect. They carried you back to your bed and you woke to the quiver of a swallow’s song outside the window’s pane and Galway Bay FM blaring from the kitchen as you longed to touch the eyes that had belonged to you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Cathy Donelan is a writer from the West of Ireland, she's in her final year of Arts with Creative Writing at NUI Galway. Her poetry has appeared in The Galway Review, A New Ulster and The Blue Nib. Her fiction has appeared in ROPES, The Honest Ulsterman, Dodging The Rain, Spontaneity, The Lamp Graduate Journal, The Nottingham Review and Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine. She has been highly commended in the Fool For Poetry International Chapbook Competition.
The Effect of Moonlight on the Human Voice I am listening for the effect of moonlight on the human voice remembering when I heard it first heard it last listen I am listening for moonbows trailing their pale gauze over high stone beds the sleeping grounds of countless nameless ages hunting the sirenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s call of the riderless horse as it wades breast bone deep in the lulling sea-green waters clasping the island like a holy child head straining up and out towards the plains of sweet wide grass trodden only by the wind The wind is singing moon songs I hear strong hands planting their music in the rich damp soil of the mother home hymning the beauty that serves as goddess to his priest her pure Eucharist poured from his softly torn throat the songs flowing back arterial green into the land across the hills bathed in the flame from his heartâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s flawed emerald The heart is always sighing moon songs Its singing is a tear drop from the moonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s silver the crying of owls in the feathered black on an empty moonless night as it rustles through abandoned factory halls
the touch of a once loved hand in the endless dark It is hereit is now it is always listen *First published in Psychic Meatloaf and appearing in “Years Ago You Coloured Me” published by Lapwing Publications
Woollens This jumper was knitted with love and made to last. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seen out many winters, the advancing cool of autumn the unexpected chill of spring. It still has a few good years left in it if treated respectfully and as I wash it through yet one more time feeling its fibres under my finger skin I wonder if it might out last me, if it will still hold my shape when my shadow no longer fills it. Who will bother to wash it by hand when my hands no longer can and what will they think, if anything, of the painstakingly crafted stitches, the soft but serviceable wool, the practical colour, the one who used to wear it?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR J.S.Watts is a UK poet and novelist. Her poetry collections, "Cats and Other Myths”, “Years Ago You Coloured Me” and "Songs of Steelyard Sue”, are published by the Belfast-based Lapwing Publications. She may, or may not, have Irish ancestry (family legend, no proof), but she’s visited Ireland and fallen in love with the music of Christy Moore. See www.jswatts.co.uk for further details
Before the rains fell We had peace before the rains fell Incessant monsoons, warm rain that ran In torrents down our muddy streets, taking everything And everyone prisoner, washing away our homes. We had plentiful food before the hurricane roared Tearing up trees by the roots, sweeping away Crops from our dusty fields, leaving behind A path of devastation in its wake. We had water before the drought descended Slowly creeping in, drying out our land Baking, boiling, parching the soil, killing Our crops, our herds and our children. We had hope before the storms came And took away our former lives. Washed away our freedom Destroying our bright future. And we still have hope, that Somehow amidst this carnage and devastation Life will go on for all of us And we will live to see more storms.
Come Outside Tempt me outside in January for a coffee on the garden bench. Ever-changing, entice me with tender asparagus shoots. Feed me with sweet sun-ripened juicy strawberries Comfort me with the rich pickings of an autumn crumble. I feel your grip as I crack the ice on the bird bath. Gritty weeds under my nails draw us back together. My constant companion, you refresh me with cool grass under my toes And restore yourself with crisp, curly oak leaves for the compost. Your rich, cold, damp earth patiently waits for my return. Ever faithful, you woo me with rain-splashed hyacinths. You intoxicate me with heady blends of lily, rose and sweet pea And stimulate with tangy tomato vines. From your stubborn silence on a still, cold February morning You suddenly awaken with a blackbirdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shrill. The neighbourâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s droning lawnmower intrudes on our rendez-vous While drowsy bees buzz round us while we harvest. Rugged and handsome, transformed by a snowfall Ever faithful, again you burst with green shoots and buds. You dazzle me with California poppies, dahlias and nasturtiums And hug me close with golden, red and orange foliage.
Stretch Marks Each year as I inched taller and taller, Trying to reach the treat jar became ever easier. My parents showed me how to love you, How to appreciate you and have regard for you. Our love blossomed with buttons and bunnies; They tasted best when they left their trace Of sticky love, melted on my fingers and face. As our affection developed, deeper, stronger, You wrapped me firmly in your arms. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t imagine a day without you then. Each spring your branches extended higher and higher Trying to touch the sky, sprouting ever taller. My parents showed me how to love you, How to appreciate you and have regard for you. Our love flourished as I played under your shade Running beneath your strong branches Your faithful love left marks on my heart. As our attachment developed, stronger, deeper Our roots grew stronger and deeper together. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t imagine a day without you then. Each year my waist expands wider and wider Trying to touch my toes becomes ever harder. I have shown my family how to love you too, How to appreciate you and have regard for you. Our love has matured to rich chocolate bars They taste best when anticipated and savoured, Their sumptuous indulgence melting in my mouth. As our affair develops, deeper, stronger You hold me firmly in your clutches. I cannot imagine a day without you now. Each year your trunk extends wider and wider I can still wrap my arms around you and hug you. I have shown my family how to love you too, How to appreciate you and have regard for you. Our love has prospered with each harvest When we gather in your bountiful crop Securing our income for another year.
As our adoration develops, deeper, stronger Our roots have become entwined. I cannot imagine a day without you now.
Treasures from the Depths His boat bobs on the sapphire bay Weaving across the pearly bed. Gulls squawk, soar and dive in its wake Into a sparkling turquoise sky. She watches his emerald boat Criss crossing over diamond crests She prays for his safe return while He asks Neptune for a prize hoard. His frozen hands haul in the cache Clinking like silver castanets Onyx shells gleam in setting rays Boarding in a bright crescendo. She waits the Pearly King’s return Welcoming the best catch in town Jet chests encase gold cabochons As his arms encase her on shore. Nightly in their gleaming bistro Diners savour the amber gems. A banquet for kings is served of Fragrant, steaming nacre caskets. Faithful Neptune’s precious bounty Provides a wealth that can’t be earned. Treasures from the depths, gold nuggets Dive in and discover them now.
You Have Gone, Journeying You have gone, left us for good. You left quickly without saying goodbye Left an empty chair weeping by the fire, A vacant place gaping at the table. Your glasses sit forlorn on your desk A half-started book lies abandoned by the bedside. We listen for your footsteps at the door But you will not be coming back. Without you, our home is empty and dark And life can never be the same again. You have gone, but left a rich legacy In our memories and in our hearts. An inspiration to those youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve left behind Who follow on, for whom life goes on. You followed your heart, Your dreams and your star. With no regrets, you lived life to the full Intelligent, industrious, inquisitive Never looking back, determined to succeed You ventured into the unknown before. You have gone, but now watch over us A celestial body, radiating brilliance, Nightly, glittering, light years away, Daily, leading us, guiding us. You shine down, illuminating our path As from desolate oceans in a different century You were steered to distant lands. Unforgotten, you dazzle from afar Ever present, you have passed on. But passed on so much to us. You have gone, leaving no mansion or jewels. More precious than heirloom gems Your character shines on through us, Brave, kind-hearted, humble, forgiving, Your memory comforts us as we slumber. Nightly, you illuminate the heavens Smiling and winking in a midnight sky As you smiled and winked at us on earth. You journeyed in search of gold nuggets But now you sparkle like a diamond every night.
To You We Bear Witness Around 9am, we sip tea from the oceanfront rental my husband and I gently rocking in chairs, enjoying the silence we have perfected these twenty years and more. We fix our gaze on the breakers, the breeze buffets warm against our skin, signals the promise of another hot day. Painting the scene in my mind’s eye I lay down a wash of sky, then underneath, a stippling of blue for sea then a band of gold before dry brushstrokes of green, until finally I pull sienna’s brown towards me, an anchor for weathered decking. The beach populates with dog-walkers, joggers, fishermen, sun-crisped seniors and muscular guys with umbrellas and chairs. But then, a young couple’s stroll falters at the water’s edge and something about them has me on my feet, gripping the guardrail as he drops down on one knee, while she, holds his gaze taut like fishing wire; then, his hand in hers, the other plunging his pocket, removing something small - oh, I gasp and now she’s nodding, they’re hugging and he’s lifting her up for the length of a kiss, dangling her toes in the spray until slowly she slides down, feet on the ground again then arm in arm they walk away, cannot hear my mad whooping and clapping; cannot see my husband - silent, still rocking.
Life Lines It was 1993. San Francisco in the spring and the sun freckled my Irish skin. Its shine was mine and life was wave upon wave going west. I took a bus across The Golden Gate to an artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s commune near the woods. Forest bathed under towering giants; leaf canopies of shade but excitement coursed my veins. So later, in the line, I offered up my palm to one who told me she could see. There, she said, right there, your life line changed and nothing will be the same. I shrugged it off and hugged the trees. Made daisy chains and strung them through my hair. Hatched plans and plotted, screamed who I would be. The scene was set. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d made my move.Then one week later, two lines of blue confirmed what she already knew. His life in my hands. *Published in Tales of the Forest January 2017, and short-listed Poems for Patience Galway Hospital Arts trust 2017
Forest Bathing I walk The Glen most days and stopping by the waterfall I close my eyes and summon words that might describe the sounds: the rush of water hurtling down, the wind that drowns the din and drone, the step and rev of a cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stealth approach on what remains of the thousand acre wood. And when my eyes are too deprived I flood them with a ribboned froth so white against the glade, its spray unfurling ferns to splay like plumes, splashing to pools, running ripples over shale and stone then trickles by, where I, am forest bathing.
The Handmaiden People say, she sits at home all day and paints her nails. So one day, a Monday, as I recall, she decides, I’ll show them, I’ll just show them. And right after the laundry and before peeling potatoes for the evening meal, she drives into town, heads for a high-end department store and marches straight to the glossy counters of Nail It. She proffers her white, crepe-paper hands, stretches and flexes her fingers hoping for spindles, or wands or something. She wiggles the nicked and chipped nails, patched up, hanging together under four layers of smudged matt Mule. It’s no problem, there’s enough to work with, they can do gels, can take her straight away. She sits back, she’s in safe hands, she doesn’t even ask how much, as I recall
Haibun draw in fresh cut hedge to replay time after time joyful encounters The smell of fresh hedge cuttings took me to a student summer in East Hampton, Long Island, New York. Some might have called it work, but it was never work to me. Housekeeper, Chambermaid, serving or cleaning, it was more about gleaning another point of view. I was winging it really, but when Fred Perry’s assistant, hosting dinner for a select few, asked who had taught me such skills, I simply replied - my mother. “Don’t brush the dirt under the mat” - I told that to FP’s assistant, who laughed while instructing I pat each Lolla Rosa leaf dry, serve on the right, clear away on the left, he handled the wine. They dined at nine and together we plated asparagus tips in straight lines. He served Chateaubriand blue, but I hadn’t a clue about Chateaubriand, never mind the reduced red wine jus. I hadn’t a clue until then. By ten the guests had gone. I wondered was there anything wrong with the food for only the salad got pushed around. He boxed and bagged, filled my basket with goodies, including the Valrhona bar - he told me I’d been a star. And you were the perfect host I thought, cycling post to post under the warmest, blackest, starriest sky, feasting on fresh hedge cuttings.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Therese Kieran is a trainee poet living in Belfast. In 2016, with writer, Lucy Beevor, she conceived and curated Death Box, an exhibition of poetry and prose including contributions from 25 writers. In October 2016, another collaborative piece, Try Me, was exhibited in The Free Word Centre, London. In 2015 she was a runner up in the Poetry Ireland/Trocaire poetry competition. She has been long-listed for the Seamus Heaney New Writer’s Award in 2015 & 2017. Her work has featured in a variety of anthologies including those published by Shalom, Community Arts Partnership, Belfast, Queen’s University, Panning for Poems - Poetry NI, Four X Four, 26 Writer’s group, The Incubator magazine, The Blue Nib, Arlen House and Tales from the Forest.
Snow Moon - Sneachta Galleach The day has been softly silent,as though waiting, breath held for the coming of the snow moon but now as I walk in the early evening dusk the sharp, cracking ice underfoot echoes in stillness and catches the moonlight like quartz stones. A biting chill eats into my bones and my breath taken by the cold freezes my words and thoughts in front of me. The snow moon is out and I stand beneath it my eyes searching across the deep sky Winter still holds sway,a liminal place between past and future, then the snow begins to fall softly flakes flutter down, soundlessly, slowly, twirling, kissing my face,my eyelashes, clearing the old and the dark there is only the present in the white silence. A new landscape cloaks the ground beneath the snow moon.
Hawthorn Honed and purified in the fires of Beltaine the hawthorn blossom spreads its white light, igniting the summer start. While, deep inside, hidden behind a thousand daggers and green leaf shields, the sidh, whisper of ancient stories and old feuds. the scent, at first, seductive, becomes heavy, a hint of unease, a reminder of mortality as our ancestors knew Soon the petals will tinge with rose, fading and falling to the ground, white ash from a fire.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jenny Methven recently published her first book of poems, which she also illustrated. Following a career in teaching and social work she has returned to her first training in art is now a full time artist. Jenny focuses on nature as the inspiration for her work. She has an MA in Education and an MSc in Peace and Conflict studies. Jenny lives in Fermanagh.
BEVERLY M. COLLINS
Sir Rancid He regarded the three of us with a gaze that was molded. His sour life announced itself like a bitterness-tattoo expression on his face, accented by the unruly patches of gray hair that crowded his cheeks and chin. He leaned forward just as two Holly Blue butterflies fluttered pass in failed attempt to improve the view of him. You need to bounce that ball some place else! he said. I wondered how he concluded the park an inappropriate place to bounce a ball. At this point, laughter bubbled from my cousin like a quick vibrato, light and contagious in how fast it spread to all three of us. We turned and ran along the wet walkway that had been sprayed by an earlier afternoon shower. Gleefully we jumped over puddles as we left him to covet the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s soiled scented bench and the lonesome embrace of his own rancid outlook.
Defiant A shimmer surrounded by shadows; Like millions of eyes with tears spilled, The dark of space sprays steely lights. The night sky sparkles like the Ghost of christmas trees past. Lessons pointed down to school my Widened pupils still weary from my day Like feet in tight shoes and memories As sharp as the tip of Orion's sword. The hungry mouths of black holes drool At a distance while the Kuiper belt sails Broken dishes from its frozen feast on Drifting dreams. As stars glisten, I wonder about the Deeper story within their twinkle. I sip A hot drink and recall that on Earth we burn something true Everyday...I mean, we turn living Blue everyday...I mean, we learn Something new everyday.
Luster Borrowing light from your eyes is like drawing flight from the wings of a hummingbird. In every direction sails; A glow of unpredictable warmth. My breath held, hopeful my face can feel the touch. It's as if the afternoon grew a heartbeat like muffled thunder. My uprooted-stinging soul sabbed by the medicine in your embrace. To fall for you-born in my core as a predisposition. The stale ink of apprehension, erased into a blank page of open readiness.
Slide Where there's night sky, one can find The open arms of a possible storm Or the frowny-pout of the moon with its Dark side asleep in the fold and grayBlack craters that peek. Much like the human face in calm or discontent; A display of fixed stare, the intake of Breath before the eruption of laughter or argument. Meanwhile... The hard challenges of life are swallowed Back. Ripples of laughter become frozen in Silhouette, a few good memories chase their Own tails in a swirl with the anticipation of Tomorrow's glisten or drudgery. We proceed... Like a brimming tear that invisions its future Of being the salty dry line on a cheek, We Are brave beetles on life's forest floor who take Flight in darkness, become quickly eaten by an Owl and are still proud our wings tasted air.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Beverly M Collins is the author of the books, Quiet Observations and Mud in Magic. Her work has appeared in the California Quarterly, Bits & Pieces Magazine, The Altadena Poetry Review, Poetry Speaks! Year of Great Poems and Poets, Spectrum, The Journal of Modern Poetry etc.
LIZ QUIRKE Housework i In the kitchen, your mother prepares the space for you, ties rhythm to her movements like a knot in loose apron strings. Countertop cleared, plates stacked clean, concealed behind cupboard doors, as if order to the mundane will tick some unknown box and draw you in. Taps scald. Her skin pinks as though slapped. It has been by the lack, the exhaustion of another calendar leaf delivering absence. ii Those long months we searched for a home, any assembly of someone else's memories, a vessel to hold our not-yet family. Worse in the mangle of my recollection, that rambling shell we nearly bought, all romance, ivy spidered through walls, character we couldn't take on. We’ve talked ourselves back up those stairs once or twice, to the landing’s turn, each time deciding silently the bedrooms needed too much work, our plans couldn’t wait.
Waiting Room There is a room wide as a football pitch and narrow as a cupboard. Off to one side, a low table bears lever arch folders a person can thumb through, photographs of babies, twins in pink onesies, little navy jumpers, with some teeth and no teeth, with newborn down on tops of heads or first wisps. There is a waiting room wide as a football pitch, narrow as a cupboard, where people sit quietly, clutch soft plastic cups of ice cold water, where chairs are a decent size and spaced so couples donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to touch each other unless they want to. There is a waiting room with a projector screen at one end, large as a feature window, explaining through vibrant graphics to the people sitting quietly, people who have more than likely researched the building and its occupants to floorboard detail, what will happen in treatment rooms they havenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t seen yet. There is a room, where people sit quietly, wait in twos or ones as though all conversation led them there but finished earlier in the carpark, or exhausted itself the evening before over pots of tea, when talk pushed into the night about cycles, hormones, injections, whispers of what they would bargain to know the feeling of their baby's foot between their fingers. There is a waiting room, silent but for shoes shuffling on matte carpet, quiet but for the hum of the water cooler, the crisp diction of the volume controlled radio,
pop songs by girls promising something new, crooning with sentiment about an abstract forever, never to know how their voice hangs over people who can only wait for their names to be called by the woman in scrubs with the clipboard.
Nocturne With Bathtime Cradling your neck in the cup of my fingers, soft your putty skull, thin in my hand. Sturdy now, a more conscious mass, your breaths call time to our steps. Movement queued with your first cry, slipping your arms through your vest the first time. Around you we pad easy, pass you off to each other, steady hands. Cradling your neck in the cup of my fingers, soft your putty skull, thin in my hand. This theory makes all sense, ingrained in our limbs with your arrival. Mothering you is a sweeping affair, balmed in camomile, powder light, a dip to warm water, swing to clean towels, swoop to finish with a burnishing forehead kiss. Cradling your neck in the cup of my fingers, soft your putty skull, thin in my hand
Night Vision Between our tired forms, you stay alert, eyes wide as our bed becomes your playground. Claiming a strip of sheet and quilt where your small body can collapse, jump up and collapse. Your arms stretch out in a backwards flop, relax supine until sleep comes. You enjoy these ill-disciplined nights, free from the confines of your cot, when teething or some other fever keeps you close. Jittering with extra energy, so confident that we can contain your movements, trusting implicitly that our shapes will hem you in when you fall, that our arms will tether you to our earth.
A Record Of You What can I keep of these first months as you slip from my hands. You are water I scoop with netted fingers, words I hold in my mouth until my lips are forced to open and I release you to the air. You are information disseminated and I have no control over your reception. What do I choose of your facts, your necessities, daily meals and sleeps, the intangible cycle of our days together, what to stack neatly and what if anything to discard. I want all of you to keep, every breath, all your garbled syllables. but in my cataloguing, I run the risk of filing you too strictly, losing you among labels, rubber banded clusters of paper, clothes you have outgrown, socks that once held your tiny feet, material things that are nothing without you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Liz Quirkeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s debut collection is scheduled for publication with Salmon Poetry in April 2018. The collection will be called The Biology of Mothering and explores parenting within a same sex family and motherhood in a non-biological sense. The "Housework" and "Waiting Room" poems are poems from the fertility treatment phase of the collection. "Nocturne With Bathtime", "Night Vision" and "A Record Of You" are snapshots of family life.
FIONA PERRY Breakers Before they are born Breakers swell and loom In rolls of blown glass I want to step inside To be statue-caught In their crystal corridor Like an ancient body Preserved in a glacier. Then I can cut the white Noise. Reboot. Prepare For my second coming As foaming diamonds Released from saltwater Ectoplasm. Thrown on To warm, restorative Sand. Equipped for Terra Firma Dwelling.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Fiona's short stories and poetry have been published in The Irish Literary Review, Spontaneity Magazine, Into The Void, Dodging The Rain and Skylight47 amongst others. She grew up in Ireland but has lived most of her life in England and Australia. She currently lives near a volcano in New Zealand. Follow her on Twitter @Fionaperry17.
Before And After She was twenty-three Single and free Got her Degree and A job in New Jersey No time for memory Years passed, she Returned, at last Old friends reeled in New loves spun out Her net recast Each scene stored This time, to be Recalled on quiet nights When she is alone And again, far from home
Great Style My mother used to love Lisa Perkins A boutique on the right, Right inside the shopping centre; Monica Peters too, out on the Main Street. “Wear your style,” she’d say to me, “A woman should always wear her style.” A powder pink top she made me buy In Blackrock Mall one time, Egging me back into the shops Lisa and Monica chortling with delight. “Treat yourself,” she said to me, “Never be afraid to treat yourself.” The beige cardigan she chose for herself With pearl buttons like tears falling down the front And the ivory beads lacing her fingers. “She’s so serene,” everybody said. “And always a great one for the style.”
Old Fashioned Remember when you held my hand And invited me out to dance Old-fashioned, as in days of yore Remember when you held my hand While waltzing me around the floor And spoke to me of romance Remember when you held my hand And invited me out to dance
Magic Moments That moment when a swirl of dark Chocolate glides across my lips Melts onto my tongue like velvet That moment when a swirl of dark Coffee â&#x20AC;&#x201C; hot - pleasures my palate Like magic, a total eclipse That moment when a swirl of dark Chocolate glides across my lips
In My Wheelie Bag A journal with classy cover Pens A book to read or write And then Leggings, knickers bed socks, fleece Under Armour runners, eye mask sleeps Shorts, sandals bikini-top shades Sunscreen, sexy dress in case the weatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ablaze Cleanser, toner bags of cotton balls Moisturizer, Mac Touch lipstick BB cream, skin perfector Frizzeaze, phone glasses. Clairol touch-up, Gmail, Facebook WhatsApp Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s up? Toothbrush, toothpaste invisible Invisaline braces For a smile that can change
everything And, for fear of the night An angel stone to press in my palm
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Frances Browner was born in Cork; grew up in Dublin; spent twenty years in America, and now resides in Wicklow. Her short fiction & memoir pieces have appeared in magazines and short story anthologies, been short-listed for competitions and broadcast on radio. Poems have been published in the Ogham Stone, Tales from the Forest, Poems on the Edge, the Limerick Poetry Trail and Skylight 47.
VICKI MULLAN Fear Of Flying When I was small I could fly. I hovered deliciously above the ground Senses heightened, viewing in detail : Stones glowed like jewels Amber,crystal, ruby-rich. I saw every scale on a beetle’s wing, Every spider’s eye, The spikes of pollen on the hairy legs of bees, Jumping cats’ fleas, Swarms of red mites. I could smell the sweet and musky scents Of animals and flowers. In winter snowflakes became stars, Frost glittered like the Milky Way, The universe unfolded under me; But I never flew away. Too satisfied with what I saw Now I can’t hover anymore.
Damascene Oh, how I longed to be loved. It wasn’t sex that sent me flitting butterfly-gaudy from bed to bed, But the desire To be desired. It didn’t work of course. They loved and left me to the sadness and loneliness Of my own Self-loathing. Now maybe I have felt a higher hand That touches me with love more real than passionate excess. It turns me out From myself. And I have seen a light— Not a Saul-blinding flash on a barren road, But a faint, grey glimmer In the tunnel of my soul.
Extinction On Wings Ghost bird flowing white, Slicing soundlessly through night air, Cutting a haunting swathe through shadow With spectral wings. Sweeping past on a whispered breath, Suddenly, soundlessly gone. Were you ever there? How long did your haunting last? How can we possess the possessed?
Goldcrest We set it on the windowsill gently Sole survivor of the fledgling butchery. Chirruping feather-ball trilling with might, Desperately delaying the dying light, Harbouring beneath its downy breast A wound to silence a lone goldcrest. We willed it to soar again in flight; It sent its soul-song to the pine tree height. Gashed to the heart by a catâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s callous claw, Sounding a death trill, it sang no more.
The Murderer Meanwhile the murderer unmoved Stretched languorously, Lips licked, Fur fluffed Belly full Goldcrest-stuffed; Self-absorbed, Self-satisfied.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vicki Mullan has scribbled on and off for years and has had a poem accepted for publication in The Scottish National Poetry Competition anthology many years ago. Vicki recently had a poem selected for the Bangor Poetry Competition
ELLIE ROSE MCKEE Detachment
Most young people want nothing more than independence; freedom to be wild, and free, and… well, young. To make mistakes and discover the world for themselves. To not be limited by what other people thought best. To make friends with whoever they wanted and not be limited at the end of each day by homework and a curfew. Kerry Hamilton, on the other hand, had never much understood the impulse. “But why?” she asked her father when he suggested she start looking at colleges further afield. He paused before answering, setting his mouth as if physically chewing over his words before releasing them. “Because we live in the ass-crack of nowhere,” said Kerry’s brother, Kit, while their father was still musing on a more diplomatic way of delivering the same sentiment. “So?” said Kerry. “I happen to like this ass-crack.” Her eyes went almost as wide as Kit’s grin when she realized what she’d said and she swiftly added that he should shut up and stay out of it. “The schools around here aren’t so great,” her dad said, finally. “You’d have better opportunities closer to the big city.” “Which city?” “Any of them.” Kerry groaned, her head falling back to gently thud the headrest of the old, battered recliner she was sitting on. A moment after that, she sat up again – her back straight and a glint in her eye. Her dad gave her a wary look. “I could go,” she said, “Get into a really good school. Do really well and get a good job…” There was a pause as she judged her father’s expression, but he was set on not responding until she’d gotten to the crux of her brainwave. Huffing out a breath, Kerry finished, “You could come with me.” Kit rolled his eyes but she ignored him, too busy still giving her dad the hard sell complete with toothpaste commercial smile. Their dad sighed and folded his paper in his lap, raising a hand for silence when Kit 94
went to speak again. “Will you give us a moment, Sport?” Shoulders slumped, Kit left the room, closing the door behind him quietly on his way out. Neither he nor Kerry could deny their father anything. Their dad was the strong yet gentle type. Wholesome, Kerry would describe him, if only to herself. Stalwart. How he treated people and the way he made them feel was what she loved most about him, and his guiding influence was she feared losing from her life. If things were great and they worked, why change and risk ruining them? It just made no sense. Turning to her, he asked, “What’s this really about, Sport?” He called everyone sport, whether they were a little girl or an old, old man; a dog, goldfish, or someone he saw on TV. Kerry worried the hem of her shirt, taking a leaf out of his book for once and pausing to think before answering. This was important, she wanted to say it right. “Don’t make me go away,” she said, several long minutes later. It took her even more time than that before she dared to look up at her dad again, but she saw that he had worried eyes when she finally did peak. Her insides twisted and the thread of her shirt made a creaking sound under her fingers. “I’m sorry,” she said, her eyes moistening. She never wanted to worry him. Hell, she never wanted to cause her dad any negative emotion. Ever. It hurt too much to see it etched across his expressive face. Again, she saw that he was waiting for her to speak. To explain. Again, it took a while for Kerry to find the words. “When mom left,” she said, her voice cracking. “You were here for us. For both of us. You- you’re safe, don’t you see?” He shook his head and Kerry had the urge to reach out and shake him until he understood. Why couldn’t he just get it? He always did before, and it seemed so obvious to her. With horror, she wondered if it was happening already – the detachment kids have from their parents when they grow up and aren’t kids anymore. “I’m not safe.” Kerry blinked. “What?” “Sport, I’m a human. Human’s ain’t safe.” Mouth opening and closing like a fish, Kerry was only able to say, “Umm.” She didn’t have the first clue where to go from there.
Her dad reached out and put his arm around her, pulling her in for one of his famous bear hugs. “Listen,” he said. “Growing up is scary, I’ll grant you that.” “No,” said Kerry. “I mean, yes, it is – of course. I just mean, that’s not what I’m scared of.” Her dad raised his eyebrows, which she took as an invitation to continue. “Growing up’s not optional, right?” she said, and he nodded. “Right, so there’s no point in worrying about that. I just don’t want to…” she paused, then added, “Grow apart.” Her dad’s lips turned into a frown but remained closed, whereas Kerry forced a smile again, even though it had nowhere near the same shine as before. “This is the part where you tell me you’ll always be here for me,” she prompted. “You know how, even if I go away, I can always come back, right?” “Wrong.” “What?” she almost yelled the word, it was pulled out of her with such sudden brutality. What was wrong was the entire conversation? They never spoke like this. Her dad had always understood before. And now – now it seemed like he almost didn’t care, except that couldn't be right, either. “Dad,” she pleaded. “That’s not–” she wrung her hands, not knowing how to finish. “I wish I could tell you I’ll always be here,” said her dad, “But that’s not how life works. Life ends.” After a sharp intake of breath that Kerry was sure had shredded her lungs on the way out, she petitioned her father again. “Don’t say that!” she cried. “Why?” he said, evenly. “It’s true.” Kerry began to sob and her dad held her tighter still. “Don’t,” he said, his tone turning gentle. “It’s no bad thing.” Through blurry eyes, she looked at him, completely blind to what he was saying. “I don’t understand.” He gave a small, reassuring smile. “It’s just life. It’s the way it goes.” “It ends,” Kerry echoed, feeling completely wretched. “That it does,” her dad agreed. “But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Not if you’ve done it right. “If I kept you close – never let you learn to fly and live in the world for yourself – one day, when I’m not here anymore, you won’t survive. It’s a father’s job to equip his kids for life, not hide them away from it.” Kerry pouted, starting to recognize the wisdom in his words even if she still didn't fully understand or accept it. “So,” she said, forcing her voice to be steady, “You want me to go away so that when you die I won’t be upset?” she summarized. It definitely 96
didn’t sound right when she put it like that. How come he’d made it sound rational? Her dad chuckled and said, “You can stay or go as you please, Sport. As long as you’re not only here for me, like I’m some kind of salvation.” “Wait,” said Kerry. “I can stay?” she was so thrilled by the prospect that she almost forgave the verbal torture that preceded it and stood up to declare her dad the best man ever to live. “But, wait,” she said again, “What’s the catch?” With a wry expression, her dad said, “There’s no catch,” but Kerry still looked skeptical. “There’s no permission needed, either,” he continued. “What you do is up to you. It’s not the decisions you make that matter so much as the fact that you make them.” Huh, thought Kerry, feeling like she finally understood. Maybe he wasn’t the one who didn’t see after all. “You’re a great girl,” her dad told her, making pride swell in her heart. “I just can’t wait to see what kind of woman you turn into.” She gave him a bear hug in reply.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ellie has been writing poetry and short stories since primary school and blog posts for ten years, since attending university in Lincoln. She lives in Belfast with her husband and spends her non-writing time enjoying art, photography, and animals.
EILEEN SHEEHAN Sexing the Eggs As she had no use for a glut of cocks she filched the new-laid eggs from underneath the squawking fuss of hen. Slipped from her pocket a wooden peg, threaded through with string. She held it still, above each egg in turn, until it told, through movement, what she was there to learn. Clockwise circles marked an egg as female, a straight line back and forth condemned an egg as male; if the peg held firm, unmoving in the air, the egg was dead. She tossed the cocks and gluggers to the brace of hounds that waited eagerly outside: their glossy coats and sparkling eyes were admired the parish wide. *First published in The Enchanting Verses: Irish Issue (editor Patrick Cotter) The Tuesday Poem The Irish Examiner (poetry editor Patrick Cotter)
Say Nothing It seemed like the heat drove him mad, that unbearable summer. He was seen in the pub all hours. His animals were heard crying in the evenings, the lonesome sound carrying across the fields. Nobody said anything, until two cows died in the hill field. They were found with their mouths half open, their long tongues lolling to one side. After that, the evenings grew quiet. Things settled back to the old pattern; the exchange of small-talk with the neighbour they had know all their lives.
Playing Shops The lean-to shed with the clunky door and grey, felt roof was where the two girls set up shop. They filled empty packets from the kitchen with sand, turf dust and small stones, adding extra weight to the game. They built shelves from old boards and fruit crates. Arranged the merchandise in neat rows with the labels facing out. Their endeavour prompted by a plastic till that they had found. When you pressed the blue button it made a dinging sound and the drawer shot open. The boys refused to play at being customers, mocked such a silly game, ran off up the field playing cops and robbers with sticks for guns. The shopkeepers begged an old scale from their mother, with a white scoop and a plastic bowl they weighed things up, weighed things out. When they went home for tea the robbers came and slashed the packets, shot the boxes open, pilfered the brown pennies from the till. Working in quiet unison the two girls dumped what was unfixable, saved what could be saved, nailed a new sign on the clunky door, opened for business.
What of the Heart? so, the heart found a calm cave to retreat to, so, it was a home of sorts, a haven, if you will, so, there was a certain comfort in the song of insects, the predictable wind, so, there were tasks to complete, a daily round, some small achievements, so, heart learnt to make-do, expected nothing, was not disappointed, so, tiny creatures succumbed to the night, she counted bones, furred corpses, so, when he tracked her there, she had forgotten his face, his darkening features, so, she ran towards him, kissed him, full on the mouth, so not what she thought she was about to do. *First published in Sixty Poems for Haiti (editors Ian Dieffenthaller & Maggie Harris/ Cane Arrow Press)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Eileen Sheehan: is from Scartaglin, County Kerry, she now lives in Killarney. Anthology publications include Best Loved Poems: Favourite Poems from the South of Ireland (editor Gabriel Fitzmaurice with photographs by John Reidy/ Curragh Press); The Deep Heart's Core: Irish Poets Revisit a Touchstone Poem (editors Eugene O'Connell & Pat Boran/ Dedalus Press) and TEXT: A Transition Year English Reader (editor Niall MacMonagle/ The Celtic Press).Her work features on Poetry International Web. Her third collection, The Narrow Way of Souls, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry.
Picking Up The Pieces Picking up the pieces of plate shattered on the kitchen floor picking up the splattered dinner like she did the week before mopping up the residue wiping the ceiling clean later he'll lament doing it that's how it's always been Picking up the pieces of people damaged in it's wake picking up the broken spirits she sadly stayed for their sake Patching up a partnership plastering over every crack in her head she left so many times vowing never to go back
Symbols Of Escape There should be anniversaries for escaping abusive relationships the symbol for the first year a lion for courage, to mark the giant leap For year two it should be steel to reflect the steel within each step of the ladder should be marked on the way up
Take No Shit She's no longer that vulnerable woman kicked down on the floor Now she's got her courage back she'll take no shit no more!
Warrior Woman I've known years and years of deepest pain I've been forged in many a fire tempered like steel I now stand the flames were high but I rose higher now I'm on a vantage point never backing down I'm a warrior woman courage is my crown!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Margaret O'Driscoll is a writer, editor and curator and is a mother of seven and grandmother to eleven who lives in Co' Cork, Ireland. She is a Social Care Worker and has been a full time carer for many years. Her poetry has appeared in various magazines and anthologies worldwide. She published her first poetry collection on Bloomsday, 2016, 'The Best Things In Life Are Free' - it has received star reviews. She was awarded a full bursary to attend The John Hewitt Summer School in 2016. Her work has been translated and published internationally in many languages.
CHRIS MURRAY [There is space] beneath the [dark]tower [Dwelling] beneath the tower
Beneath the Tower Alongside [it a babel-brook] a river there is [sings of her silks and silver, many tongued she is [Her song] Note].
A river does not ‘sing’
is of salmon, of hazelnut(s) [a visual image omitted, Editor’s
Boann The River Boyne flows between two ancient towers at Trim, Co. Meath. [two ancient towers shot through, blasted into ruination]at Trim, Co.Meath, Ireland. Alongside [Boann] the river there are the remnants of an extensive settlement which consists of a curtain wall, gate tower remnants, including the Barbican Gate, a great standing tower, a ruined great hall, and other. architectural curiosities which have become known collectively as ‘Trim Castle’. [*We will concern ourselves only with one of the towers, Editor’s Note] . Boann / The River Boyne. Boann
There is no need to endow the river with a colloquial name!
The River Boyne flows between two ancient towers at Trim in Co. Meath, Ireland. [Shot through / blasted into ruination], [T]he ruins present a stark picture to the walker poet. Boann/ The River Boyne It is time for us to infuse Boann with song, with images. It is time to let the past lie down in its wreckage. We must begin to listen to her notes, illuminant, discordant; the babel of the female poet singer. The woman poet takes her language from Boann. The dark shape of the river passes us. It is silver and brown, its deep blue is endlessly lit from above. Boann is asking us for music and for light. It is time to question tower’s austere note. Its commission of dark wordless functionality. It is time to fill the valley with the sound of our singing.
The Tower The tower is a physical entity, lock-gripped and tenaciously clinging to the landscape from where it arose. Yet it can be changed into a useful metaphor for the purposes of this essay. We can examine the tower metaphor as the ’weight’ of male poetic ‘authority’, the type of poetic language that dominates a canon that has relentlessly excluded women poets. The Irish woman poet should not take on the burden of the tower, which is in fact an unattainable linguistic remnant of the past. An austere shape that intimidates us and refuses to beguile us with its plain blank note, it's simple austerity. An internally buttressed tower, a ruination that is invisibly reinforced by those women writers too lazy to challenge the ideology of the cultural industry, the literary market. It could just be a tower in a field, but where is the harm in that ? Women poets wear multiple corsets. They are the best self-editors, doing anything to achieve critical recognition in an Irish canon dominated by the male poet’s voice, including writing a poetry that fits into their idea of the austere, the heroic, the conquering.
We are never allowed to forget the dark tower. The structured language, the idiom of false praxis. It dominates the dreaming lives of those of us who cling to the literary landscape. ‘Tower’ is alwayspresent, a colossus,
an ancient sand crack sounds, unsound, it cannot upbuild its wall.
There is space to walk beneath the tower. A huge mostly dry and cavernous space. It feels light beneath it because the arches are doing the work carrying that fearful weight of poetry tradition. Small trickles of water run down the old walls nourishing blue flowers, daisies, maybe there are some forget-me-nots. Small and quite insignificant flowers dwell beneath this dark austerity. The run-off makes its way to an underground drainage system, eventually it emptying into the adjacent river,
Alongside tower the babel-brook sings out her silks and silver, many-tongued she is. Her song is of salmon, of hazel nuts, of night and men. Boann shrugs off the impertinence of the tower in the great schema of things. The rulers, those king-worshippers, idolaters, leave no space in their making for light, for the shallow play of water, for a sliver of coloured glass to carry the multiplicit y ies of her reflection(s) There is in fact nothing to blunt the edge of the austerity in their conception of ‘tower’. It is not a burden due to us, nor ours to carry.
The corbelled stonework in the archway under the tower allows air to drive through while keeping the rain off. Of course the supporting arches are of low roman design. These huge arches have the ability to carry great architectural weight. Tower Tower’s unquestioned authority is set in the language of stone, of austerity, a music of heroic manhood, of conquest, of collapse and ruination. It only takes a second to turn away from that anomalus ruin, and face the river that survived the shaping of the tower, Alongside Tower the babel-brook sings out her silks and silver, many-tongued she is. Her song is of salmon, of hazel nuts, of night and men. Boann shrugs off the impertinence of tower in the great schema of things. Boann- her language is a babel brook, containing both dark and light. Her language, the language of river is an eternal thing. Boann flows between the ruins of two towers, that one with the fabulous curtain walls, down-fastened, fixed, creeled in by the language of stone. That old tributary alongside it was a much disputed redirection. Heaving with rushes now, it is a mirage, the ground looks solid enough to the unwary. That tower opposite might well be the end wall of some castle. Boann passes darkly and rapidly, giving not a thought to these ancient ruins. Her waters are alive with silk and silver. ‘Tower’ was an episode, an ancient and tawdry memory. The tower-makers neglected her, there were no places of shallow and light for her waters to play. There was no place for her to capture their hearts of stone, their worldliness. They built no place for a chapel, or for her lights to play out their mischief. There would be no ease for the dead of that house. She passes the old curtain wall, shrugs off the memory now, an aberration. We must examine the ruin of tower in order to understand how it has colonised our imaginations for thousands of years. It Is not externally buttressed, so its foundation must strike deep into the bedrock and soil that it is built upon. Kids can run around it, this rain-blackened tower. They can climb and jump over what was the cess pit and its sliding garde robe. Festooned now with blue spotlights edging its ancient clinging to the landscape- we are not allowed forget it, even at night, Its ancient sand crack
sounds, unsound, it cannot upbuild its wall. If we investigate closer, we can see that tower is buttressed internally with a never ending series of internal scaffoldings, rigorous shunting of metals into walls has occurred. Rust bleeds down onto the exposed sills. New wooden doors hang darkoakly from its lintels and other more ancient architectural extrusions. We can see that tower is an image of austerity, with its weird militaristic ringing. There is no decoration evident here. Gargoyles are fashioned from strict limestone, no grinning monsters or weird beasts relieve its upward sweep. Music and merry making happened in the roofless hall that is set at a distance from the business of tower. Its windows are always slits for arrows, for defence. There were picture windows made up of tiny panels, mullioned and closed in. There were no wide open windows here. No vistas, maybe the sun once made a play with the glass panels in their plain whiteness, unrelieved by stain of blue or deep orange. Tower clutched onto the landscape that it arose from. A sister tower across the river is without interest, a gutted needlelike structure, flimsy walled, raided by farmers for outbuildings, for old stone walls. It's weird music only heard by sheep and wild animals now. Tower appears to be impenetrable, but it is not a babel tower. It is not the queen's rook, the richly interpreted, the feathered by music and song tower. It is an austerity, a precise note on the poetry landscape, a darkness of function and direct language. Here, you are aware that you stand outside of it. An alienated being. It is good to find oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feet, to know that they can take you away from the austerity of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;towerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; back to the river. Back to Boann, back to her eternal song.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Chris Murray is an Irish poet. Her chapbook Three Red Things was published by Smithereens Press in June 2013. A small collection of interrelated poems in series and sequence, Cycles, was published by Lapwing Press in autumn 2013. A book-length poem, The Blind, was published by Oneiros Books in 2013. Her second book-length poem, She, was published by Oneiros in spring 2014. A chapbook, Signature, was published by Bone Orchard Press in March 2014. “A Modern Encounter with ‘Foebus abierat’: On Eavan Boland’s ‘Phoebus Was Gone, all Gone, His Journey Over’ ” was published in Eavan Boland: Inside History(Editors: Nessa O’Mahony and Siobhán Campbell) by Arlen House in 2016.
MOYRA DONALDSON We were Speaking and then the Bright Half-moon and Jupiter. A black volcanic bowl with one blue stream across and a jug that holds no water. Architect drawings are fading and each morning now the house has rearranged itself. Through which window will the sun rise today? On what will it set? The word is written on the wall by a mysterious hand. See how it shines above your head, as if it was the word of god, as if the word was out that you can hate as well as you can love, or better; yes word is out, word is on the street. Kneel down for it and do not blink.
Black Dream Bird It was yesterday that I was a crow with horse hair in my beak and my nest half built and my black feathers shining through the early mist of belonging to the world of knowing how to balance on the air of the world and my shadow the same colour as myself. Even when the farmer tied my body lifeless to the wire in warning and my bones poked out still I flapped in the wind and raised my wings to the call of the air my beak hinged open in constant caw.
Glory and Tragedy at Cheltenham BBC Sport Online 28th January 2017 A found poem Press After lowering the colours of hot favourite, Thistlecrack in a sensational battle, in the best race of his career, better even than his win in the 2015 Grand National Many Clouds collapsed moments after crossing the line. Gallops Jockey What was great about him but was also his downfall, was that he didn’t know when to quit, that’s our sport and it makes us love it and makes us hate it. Trainer I’ve had two large vodkas and tonics, basically IV vodka just to be able to speak to you, he was the horse of a lifetime, I always said he’d die for you and he died for me and the team today, doing what he loved. Veterinarian On behalf of the owner and trainer and with their permission, the BEVA can confirm that Many Clouds was found to have suffered from a severe pulmonary haemorrhage which was the cause of his death after the race. No significant underlying health issues were discovered in the autopsy. Our thoughts remain with everyone connected to the horse. Groom I regret not patting him – I just went away too upset and I wish I’d said goodbye; I didn’t go down to the yard this morning; it hit me last night when I saw his box and knew it was never going to be used by him again. It broke my heart, you never get over it. I’m sixty-two and I’ve been in the sport since I was fifteen, but you never get used to losing them, if you do you shouldn’t
be working with horses. I’m due to retire in two years when he’d have been twelve, I was hoping we could have gone out together. He wasn’t a good horse, he was a great horse.
Return Why are the horses so long without coming, And let me suffer so much Kasper Hauser – the Child of Europe Like the viola d’amore, our heart strings lie below the heart strings of the horse so that we harmonise through resonance, and there is truth that lives outside of time in vivid dream; the thin little sorrel beast, the boy who kissed her dying eyes and lips, memory perhaps, of when we were not the centre of the universe, the locus of its consciousness, not master, owner: we could yet set down the axe. Vaslav Nijinsky dances the war in Saint Moritz in front of the aristocrats; he dances frightening things. Finished, he declares – the little horse is tired. Nietzsche, weeping in the Piazzo in Turin, weeps for the beaten horse, the beaten self – sing me a new song. If I could remember where the bones were buried, I would dig them up, the wings of scapulas, the skulls of air, the golden saddle cloths; reconstruct the horses, the black horse and the white horse and the horse of fire.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Poet, creative writing facilitator, editor. Experienced mentor for those working towards a first collection. Moyraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s publishers are Lagan Press, Belfast and Liberties Press, who published her Selected Poems in 2012 and her most recent collection, The Goose Tree in June 2014
Churston Cove The pink-pebbled shore is deserted but for a boy and his tattooed father Skimming stones out to sea. Backs arched, wrists flicking, stones low-leaping. The sea will thrust them forward again, Their smooth forms nudged to the foreshore. Wave by wave, tide by tide, Ground to gravel, to sand, A red salty coarseness cut with bone and glass. The boy enjoys a sudden moment of triumph, One; two; three; four jumps The stone sinks without a splash. He raises his nimble, young fists, as yet, a blank, uninked canvas. Prances wildly around the empty amphitheatre, Silky shingle bunching under his feet. Gleeful shrieks ricochet off rocks and trees and cliffs. His fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tattoo of a bearskin soldier, Proudly etched on the side of his right shin, Cracks into a sly smile behind a glinting, gold chain. The day is marked. The guard has changed. The tide has turned. Seagulls make figures of eight, As they circle a rowdy school of mackerel coming to the boil. A silver rush of slapping and smarting. Further out, a seal quietly relishes its blubbery immersion, Oily skin sparkling. It raises its round, shiny head up to the blue, cloud-streaked heavens. Carefully balancing the forces of nature on the tip of its nose.
Squeeze tight; let go I made you a perfect 5 ‘o clock cuppa - force of habit I guess! Lovely loose, leaves unfurling their oriental goodness. I added just enough milk to round out the bitter tang of tannin and gave it a good stiryou’ll be pleased to know- sugar really isn’t necessary: You were right all along, my Darjeeling! Especially if you have it with a biscuit, as you always did! Amazingly, you never gained one ounce despite polishing off sweet, crunchy roundels at every opportunity! You should be the size of a house and yet I can’t remember a time when you ever refused a Jaffa Cake or a Jammy Dodger or even a Rich Tea! Count yourself lucky and enjoy it while it lasts! Apparently, taller people have more surface area to spread around the ‘hardening’ in their arteries so put that in your pipe and smoke it! But think of your teeth, never mind your arteries - I didn’t take you to the orthodontist in Crouch End for years for them to rot into stumps like an Elizabethan trollop! What about my father in Mid-Ulster? Still shaving every single morning without fail - you could set your clock by him. It takes him forever, not because he’s 83 and that’s the time he takes, but rather because he takes his time. That plug doesn’t get pulled; that chain doesn’t clink and rattle around the neck of the tap until his skin is as smooth as a perfectly-dimpled baby’s bottom! I drank my cup down in a few hasty swigs- well somewhere between a gulp and a long sip. It really hit the tingling, yearning spot on the back of my throat. Only a good old-fashioned cup of tea can do that! Tea must be up there with soda bread and fluffy mash and a good trifle and cricket commentary on the radio. Nice little succulent, rambling tete a tetes to pass the time at the crease, all the way up to the tea break. Jammed scones and lemon drizzle cake knocked up by dutiful wives and mothers. A sea of gleaming white teacups rising and falling from stubbled jaws all around the grassy pavilion. Remember how I used to hold your hand towards the end, in the last few weeks? I’d squeeze tight, then let go. I do that now but with my fists pumped to stop the pain from rising in my chest. It was ages since I’d actually held your hand like that. I used to have to hold to keep you safe and stop you falling over. Like when you used to walk along the top of that old stone wall in the park in Islington where we used to live, squishing the trailing rosebuds in a pair of soft, pink leather sandals, your hair a bouncing ball of yellow fuzz in the morning light. I’ve had rabbit eyes for weeks now - feel about a hundred years old! Listen to me spouting on - I suppose I shouldn’t pour my heart out like this. HaHa! I could go with the flow and get a smaller teapot, but then I’ll have to buy a smaller tea cosy too, so maybe I’ll just go to Sainsbury’s and buy some decent strong teabags and be done with it! Squeeze tight and let go eh!
You see all the problems Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got all because you passed a few exams! Freshers week will be in full swing by now! Think Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll put the kettle on, that tingling is back again!
The Hair of the Dog One fitted jacket, M&S, size 14, With a soft alluring sheen, Heavy black cotton. Hangs forgotten, On a coat peg in a caravan in Torbay. Something of the Highway Man or New Romantic in its looks, In the steel eyes and hand-finished hooks. No time for goodbyes The row was devastatingly quick, Pompeii, AD79, Insults leapt like molten lava, Sparked by crossed wires over a smart telly, Innocent goods, lent, not given, Words taken the wrong way. Caught in the crossfire, women plead, children go quiet, Dog whimpers, bulging brown eyes averted. Half-eatenThai takeaway ( set menu 3) Abandoned in tin foil cases, On chipped, formica table with a bad wobble. Congealed fingerprints on glasses of beer, Unctuous grease from spring rolls, Transferring almost perfectly. Brothers successfully parted. Cane, mortally offended, Driven away at high speed in a second-hand, Metallic green Mazda, Dog cowering in the back seat. Voice cracking, ash flying up from his cigarette, A red glow in the fading light. Wounded, Abel goes to watch the rabbits frolicking at dusk. Walks past the live entertainment, Thankful for the garish, drunken Karioke.
Days later, the jacket is discovered. One crinkled, rough, yellow hair of the dog clings to the inside of the cotton lining. The rightful owner is established. Text messages about â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;the hair of the dogâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; are exchanged. Beers cooling in the fridge. They will come round to collect it later.
Heron Landing Alone, a heron stands still, Surveying the scene upon landing. Motionless. Emotionless. A conductor before a performance. Awaiting the acquiescence of the ornithological orchestra, Perched on the upper branches of Ash and Rowan trees on the pond island. Tuneless crows caw over the low cooing of bloated pigeons. Gulls eye-up rafts of floating bread scraps, Their shrieking pierces the full-throttled din: They will not be disciplined. The heron has set them off. It wastes no more time on their cacophony and looks to feed itself. Head stretched forward, leading a sharp line of inquiry, From long toes clawing the pond bed all the way to beak, Two razors ready to sever, in a well-timed second, the green grubby slime. It sees movement and stabs the unsuspecting prey in its surgical shadow. Old stamping ground is the best.
AMY BARRY The Goddesses at Uisneach In this sun-shower morning, A chain-link friendship, We wade barefoot, A total immersion, Documenting words fished from Lough Lugh — The birth of fertilised lines! The goddess Aine flares Sun-spangled passion in our spirits, We rapture into a dervish-like dance. Then, we listen to her singing And the violin pours… We, not moving, Holding our breath, In the Hill of Uisneach — We persist.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Amy Barry writes poems and short stories. She has worked in the Media, Hotel and Oil & Gas industries. Her poems have been published in anthologies, journals, and e-zines, in Ireland and abroad. Her poems have been read and shared on the radio in Australia, Canada and Ireland. She loves traveling and trips to India, Nepal, China, Bali, Paris, Berlin, have all inspired her work. When not inspired she plays Table Tennis.
Domestic Help 1916 Come on! Come on! Cumann na mBan girls, give birth to a new nation proclaim beauty in your child’s eyes; her pupils refract freedom. Train her quickly in rifles, rounds and revival and teach her to be alert, brave and cunning in preparation for a rebellion. Come on! Come on! Cumann na mBan Come on! Come on! Cumann na mBan Throw poetry, prose, plays and pistols into a pot and let the women serve a revolutionary banquet. Be radical with hotel larders and factory biscuits, to create rations for the regiments. Come on! Come on! Cumann na mBan Sacrifice your safety, sideboard and sofas, to barricade the streets. Dance dangerously with the men from last week’s ceilidh, then take orders, tapping keys to the tune of the rebel’s refrain, hear the music of the Mauser’s bodhrán beat. Come on! Come on! Cumann na mBan Spread your wings and fly across the scarlet skyline, unruffled by scorching cinder confetti. Or scurry through streets and alleys, under the disguise of your sex, moving arms and ammo unseen. Weave underground networks, in a city divided by more than the Liffey. Come on! Come on! Cumann na mBan
Bandage the bullet wounds and dress the damage done by imperial oppression; these scars will mark you forever. Raise the blood-stained sheet, and mourn the child that fought for life for six days. Don’t wear black; say ‘I do’ under the shadow of death and against the executioner’s ticking clock.
Abraxas Oh, dark one! I see shadows staring back reflected in an ebony pond, a black iris smooth and shining. Do we see differently? Is your world in sepia, or monochrome, or technicolour? Have you lost hope in humanity? I stroll through the golden field, seeded grass swishes against skin. You follow, echoing my gait. Under a shaft of sunlight we stop â&#x20AC;&#x201C; still. Feel our breathing become synchronised. Taste the mist of our exhalation merging in the stillness of us muzzles almost nuzzling. But you are looking down on me and I wonder if your power will be my undoing. I reach to touch your cheek. The spell is broken you rear up whinnying; gallop off like a thunderbolt leaving me in a cloud of humility.
Winter Self-help Fold your blank page in half, bend from top to bottom smooth with finger nail fold each hoary edge back on yourself. Trim off a border in zigzags or curves depending on your mood. Or if you need help use this as a template, cut out of the emptiness angles, anger and bubbles are good. Under foot a flurry of flakes, the trimmings of excess. Tenderly unfold your new page reveal your creation, beautiful in your uniqueness. Sometimes you have to cut things out to make the perfect snow f l a k e
After birth “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” Alexander Graham Bell At first, there was the heady rush of relief, at wrinkles, pink skin and the right number of fingers and toes. Delivered, like a gift the day before Grandmother’s birthday baby was a welcome distraction for a family still mourning her passing. Baby’s first suckle was stress-free but afterwards, like sour milk, latching on was distasteful to both of us. Baby blues came and stayed. Visitors cooed, asked how I was coping ‘I’m fine’, I lied; for a toxic cocktail of stress and hormones had gone to my head. My irrational self took over; I was to blame for Gran’s death and no amount of internal conversation could convince me it was the Cancer’s fault. As punishment, I confined myself to a ceramic cell; this kept baby safe as well. When I looked in the mirror, a saw a murderer blinking back.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Gaynor Kane is a graduate of the Open University, with a BA (Hons) Humanities with Literature. She has had poetry published in the Community Arts Partnership’s ‘Poetry in Motion’ anthology Matter and in online journals, such as: Atrium Poetry, The Galway Review and The Blue Nib. In 2016, Gaynor was a finalist in the annual Funeral Services NI poetry competition. In June 2017, she was appointed as a member of the Executive Board for Women Aloud NI.
EITHNE LANNON Companion There is a moon inside every human being. Learn to be companions with it. Rumi Take the river’s curl, the ocean’s wave, the never ending trees, the sway of a meadow, the roll of the sun, the scattered stepping stars. And take last month’s silver bud of moon now come full to the sky, her mouth is wide and open, white lips brimming with a soft wet light; month by month, she gives her widening emptiness to the earth, holds the planet in her orbit, washes ocean after ocean over sandI stretch out my arms and reach for her, hold hands with her rhythm, climb into her open wound; my blood is lapping at her constant pull, I sleep in the mantle of her tidal pulse, slip the ring of her light onto my finger. At the last hour of fullness, I stay up till dawn; lost inside wholeness, carved into the darkening spine, I stop for a full-moon moment inside this wild interiorthe silent luminosity, the bittersweet abundance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Eithne Lannon is a native of Dublin. She’s had poems published in The Ogham Stone, Boyne Berries, Skylight 47, FLARE, Stanzas and The Limerick Magazine. On-line she’s published with Sheila-na-Gig, Headstuff, Bare Hands, Tales from the Forest, The Galway Review and A New Ulster. She had poems long listed for the Dermot Healy competition this year and was short listed for the Galway Arts competition last year. Eithne is involved in the open mic scene around Dublin and was Artist in Residence in Loughshinny Boathouse in summer 2016.
YVONNE BOYLE My Grandmother and the Panama Canal She told me 'not to bother my father as he was busy ..... working'. I learnt what 'cross' meant. I did not know she crossed seas to see her son in New Zealand in the fifties. For six months? 'Well, the voyage itself took six weeks'. It was said that she did not speak to my mother for a year after I was born after Uncle Jim left. 'Her favourite son.' The ship squeezes through the canal. Not much room on either side. A fifties grandmother in a sun hat on deck alone between oceans.
Writers' Group Day Out The shaky hand of the writer pours milk in my cup. We walk hesitantly into the literary landscape.
Remembering being in love with Tony Jaques at Cambridge That time, years later, walking on Dorset beach you said your wife had asked ‘Did she take long to get over you?’ and I couldn’t really recall. As it was, that illusive certainty of imagined security was of no comfort to her. I do not yearn that things might have been different, but you are still the best dancer I ever met. Even at nineteen when it came to the slow dance at Homerton College you said ‘all these couples dancing slowly, some not even wanting to be together ‘trapped’ on the dance floor - we don’t have to follow them’. Off you went, gliding around the whole floor and me sweeping after you. I do not yearn to be with you but in this world of couples going through their paces I would still follow your wild and free path circling around conformity.
Pink Towerblocks Pink towerblocks against a grey Belfast autumn skyline as I drive down the MI from a visit to my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Lisburn Nursing Home. In her room catching sight us both in a mirror I notice how alike our face shapes are; I a reflection of her. Now in my rear view mirror I see the whole sky luminous rose pink over Lagan Valley. I the tower block and my mother the setting sun light.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Yvonne Boyle is a retired social worker and poet.
MARGARET SAINE TODAY I ATE MY MUSE Male poets have always needed a Muse [Musa] the female angel inspiring and guarding their work Men have not told us how the women while inspiring kept busy knitting or reading? lovely singing to the harp? staring into space? Women poets have a dilemma they can take a female Muse and be two women taking turns inspiring each other or have a male Muso to fall in love with Today I ate my Muse: she had 105 calories P.S. Musa is the botanical name of the banana.
PREGNANT Inside me there is movement an incomplete compass striking capricious and tender the beat of a second heart In my bowels Inside me there is a voice speaking unfinished vowels hushed consonants I will never throw away my tale as begun though it promised only ashes and sorrows There is still inside me this new voice that softly moves to rule me and win me regardless of consequence Softly touching my breast in a farewell to myself alone Inside me this creature is the nearest I've felt to myself in my life
JUST ASKING How can it be thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s never been a pregnant saint [un saint enceint] --une sainte enceinte if you insist-No saint was ever pregnant though pregnancy is a miracle --lifeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s greatest mystery-A pregnant male saint would be a double miracle and the Church could certainly achieve such a miracle to be performed Thee is one female saint with her breasts cut off Saint Agatha According to Catholic Online the patron of pregnant women is a male saint Saint Gerard Majella who once gave a handkerchief to a pregnant woman And you pregnant women out there can shop for his medal at Catholic Shopping dot com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Margaret Saine is a poet who lives near Los Angeles. She writes and translates in different languages and writes one haiku daily since 2008. Her last book is â&#x20AC;&#x153;Lit Angelsâ&#x20AC;? Moonrise Press, Tujunga-Sunland CA, 2017
Light: the old farm These are the days when the light moves slowly on. When summer, wrapped up gently as any precious gift, ebbs slowly - and in leaving us seems sweeter than before. I search for beauty in the fields around the farm and find berry-clustered hedges, limned in leaf of gold, glowing brightly, still-life like, rich with colour, holding the weight - if not the heat - of the lowering sun. For autumn light brings with it a fading memory of warmth and falls in layers of stillness now - a slow retreat pressing more lightly in against the shortening day. These days I carry close to me - as something treasured my memories of this farm on a clear summer's day. Dawn brought with it, then, rich promises of toil. Unwrapped in soft blue mornings, filigreed with mist, thick swathes of grass, falling freshly-mown behind my father's blades, dried, crisp and fragrant, under a golden sun. We carried light within us - in childish voices and in laughter from fields to kitchen, then racing back outdoors: each voice, a note of busy happiness we did not know we sang. Later, in the room we shared, folded and tucked in tight, summer light pooling in golden shadows at the foot of each small bed, mist softening, again, the edges of the glorious day, roads, hedges, cattle, cats still warm with the memory of sun, and a waterfall of birdsong echoing through the falling dusk. The fading light of autumn, now, is a different, sombre thing. The yard is stilled: old houses empty, tractors gone. The choir of birds is silenced too: some have already flown. Those remaining have withdrawn from the immediacy of the day. Leaves are weighted now and still: caught on the cusp of colour, waiting to fall. Only shadows fill the quiet, lonely byres. The pale light of winter will be a barren gift - something to yearn for and yet lose too soon. Such meagre light will prove a mere echo of the generous summer sun and will not fill the faltering heart or thaw the frozen soil.
The frosted light draws out, instead, the scents and sounds of the fading year: the sweetened smoke of peat fires fragrance the still, cool air, and in the icy, lowering darkness a fox's bark echoes harshly across the empty, frozen fields while glittering stars burn cold and the old farm lies quiet and still.
End of Year From here, you can see the fabric of the year scuffed raw and worn thin around the grey horizonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fine and unforgiving rim. Today the sun is light and empty; nothing more. Sudden gusts of desolate, bitter wind busy themselves along the weakening edges of the moment delving in - seeking to loosen - then to pry all that holds them from the remnants of the day. These desiccated husks of time are borne up - gossamer-thin, translucent rising loose and wild in tattered fragments towards an abandoned sky.
Dereliction The job in hand is more than lifting stones though that itself is task enough, I’ve heard them say; the years bring gentle slippage with them. Old farmyard byres still stand – but out of focus now – a gradual shifting from the original a blurring and softening at the edges. A loss of focus. Strange that stone should soften somehow. Strange and sad that dereliction should be so beautiful, so patient, so steady, and so complete.
Autumn Manuscript Minims and crotchets of hungry black crows on shorn autumn fields. Rewriting the music of the season as they rise and swoop and fall.
Relay October races towards November, still like a child at play. November reaches slowly down and takes its toy away.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Anne McMasterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work is shaped and informed by nature, by the seasons and by both the history and landscape of the old farm where she lives.
CSILLA TOLDY Late Hers was deep, she knew it in her guts the aching desire that could not be suppressed with shrugging, or fist-clenching or just defensively pulling up the drawn-out corners of her mouth. After fighting it too long, she realised that her mother had been a child; just as she was, abandoned. Alone, in a world that rejected babies of shame, regardless. And she, ached for her touch and the act of forgiveness - reflected. To tell her that it was ok - she grew up in comfort with loving parents, but. When she arrived, all she could find were photographs of a young girl - looking back at her - through a mirror of time. The message from her mother tele-transported, through a wall of tears released: With reckless abandon - love yourself.
Meta-strategies Two boys in a canoe. A river. A waterfall. Rocky Mountain. A community in panic. The search. Sleepless anguish, silent prayers. Endless hours of waning hope. Helicopters hovering in the wind, tv announcements. Two rangers saw two boys and a canoe on the way up-up, playing Rock-paper-scissors. They were warned, what else could you do. Terry and Johnny, random brothers dancing around the fire, running with kites memoryless. Our babies’ wind-chime laughter, Rock-paper-scissors. Johnny was reckless the seeker of danger, so restless faster than the wind. We dubbed him “The Rocket”. Our Terry was wise, talking of nature he smiled at the empty air over our heads. Rock-paper-scissors carried by the wind. Two tree trunk bodies tossed around the river’s algorithm awe-trapped totems of never-end.
Shakti I don’t feel poetic today, I just want some peace – you cannot give me, no more We struggle on the waves of acceptance, of our new life together - or apart I want to move you want to stay – we bury our romance Duty, dharma - yours is light mine is dark – but there is a need for Darkness, otherwise, how could anyone see your light? And the shape of things. The depth of dark is your doom - intense not knowing – the reptile brain of religion Sex, sacred trance – woman’s instinct holding your point in the dance The smallest phase, the non-manifest being of all that was and is and will be: Light.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Csilla Toldy’s poems appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, in the UK, Ireland and Canada. Her awards include the Katapult Prize, The Hartley-Merrill Prize and The Special Prize of the Motion Pictures Association of America. Her poetry collection Red Roots - Orange Sky was published by Lapwing Publications Belfast in 2013, followed by an anthology of short fiction, poetry and memoir with the title “The Emigrant Woman’s Tale” in 2015. Her poems were long and short listed for the Fish, Oxford Brookes and Bridport poetry prizes.
LIST OF IRISH AND NORTHERN IRISH WOMEN WRITERS PUBLISHED BY LAPWING PUBLICATIONS Lapwing Female Writers 2016-2017 2016 978-1-910855-14-0 Up on the Hills and All at Sea x Rosy Wilson 31-Mar-16 Irish 978-1-910855-22-5 Blue Moon Rising x Vivienne Hannah-Artt 31-July -16 Irish 978-1-910855-25-6 Confluence of Wakes x Jean Folan 31-July-16 Irish 978-1-910855-27-0 Years Ago You Coloured Me x J.S. Watts 31-Aug-16 978-1-910855-33-1 The Phantom Fundamental x Ruby Turok-Squire 31-Oct-16 978-1-910855-34-8 Disappearing Tracks: A Story in Verse x Geraldine Paine 30-Nov-16 978-1-910855-35-5 The Meadow of the Spell x Rose Moran RSM 30-Nov-16 Irish 978-1-910855-36-2 Loose Leaves: A life in Vignette x Sue Norton 30-Nov-16 USA-Irish 978-1-910855-38-6 The Shadow Behind Me x Paula Matthews 30-Nov-16 Irish 2017 978-1-910855-39-3 Keeping Watch x Katherine Noone 31-Jan-17 Irish 978-1-910855-41-6 Obsession x Valerie Masters 31-Jan-17 Irish 978-1-910855-42-3 Imperatives x Pat Farrington 31-Mar-17 English 978-1-910855-43-0 Foxes Don't Wear Watches x Belinda Singleton 28-Feb-17 English 978-1-910855-44-7 As I Go In The Dark x Sally Wheeler 30-Apr-17 Irish 978-1-910855-45-4 Lilac & Gooseberries x Aoife Reilly 31-Mar-17 Irish 978-1-910855-46-1 Pages of Travel x Silvia Baron Supervielle trs Peter Schulman 31-Mar-17 Argentina 978-1-910855-48-5 Voices in the Garden x Julie-ann Rowell 31-Mar-17 English 978-1-910855-52-2 Roots and Wings x Rose Moran 30-June-17 Irish 978-1-910855-54-6 Going West x Rosy Wilson 31-July-17 Irish 978-1-910855-56-0 Everyday Islands x Julie Fuster 31-Sept French 978-1-910855-58-4 Ancestral Bones x Judy Russell 31-Aug-17 Irish 978-1-910855-61-4 Lifespun x Pat Farrington 31-Sept-17 English